IDF officers train UN peacekeepers in medical care in Mongolia exercise
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IDF officers train UN peacekeepers in medical care in Mongolia exercise

2 Israeli medical officers join annual Khaan Quest drill, working with soldiers from dozens of countries – including Qatar and Malaysia, which have no diplomatic ties with Israel

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF Cpt. Dr. Kobi Weissmehl trains United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal during the Khaan Quest exercise in Mongolia in June 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Cpt. Dr. Kobi Weissmehl trains United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal during the Khaan Quest exercise in Mongolia in June 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

A pair of Israeli medical officers took part in a two-week exercise in Mongolia last month, training United Nations peacekeepers from around the world, including countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, in basic first aid and combat medicine.

Over 35 countries participated in the 17th annual Khaan Quest exercise outside the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. This was Israel’s first time taking part in the event.

The exercise was made up of 12 stations in which UN peacekeeping troops learned everything from crowd control to mine-clearing and how to set up a checkpoint.

Maj. Roy Stern and Cpt. Dr. Kobi Weissmehl from the Israel Defense Forces worked alongside the United States’ Alaska Army National Guard and the Mongolian Armed Forces at the medical care station.

IDF Maj. Roy Stern trains United Nations peacekeepers during the Khaan Quest exercise in Mongolia in June 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“This was an extension of Israel’s humanitarian efforts over the years,” Stern, the head of medical training at the IDF’s Tzeelim base, told The Times of Israel.

The IDF has garnered an international reputation for its responses to natural disasters around the world, dispatching medical and search-and-rescue teams within days, sometimes hours, of an earthquake, tsunami or similar large-scale tragedy. IDF field hospitals also received top ranks by the World Health Organization in 2016, making Israel the first country in the world to earn such a designation.

“Israel has a lot of experience in this field. We’ve done a lot in medicine and in humanitarian missions,” said Weissmehl, the chief medical officer for the Armored Corps’ 460th Brigade.

Stern, a 39-year-old father of three, said he and Weissmehl worked to bring all of the UN peacekeeping troops who took part in the exercise up to the same level in terms of medical training, as they came with varying degrees of experience.

IDF Maj. Roy Stern and Cpt. Dr. Kobi Weissmehl train United Nations peacekeepers during the Khaan Quest exercise in Mongolia in June 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

They taught the recruits how to use tourniquets and bandages to stop bleeding, how to safely load someone onto a stretcher and move them, and numerous other aspects of combat medicine and first aid.

“We gave them basic, important tools to treat casualties,” Stern said.

Stern said they also tried to learn from the peacekeepers who participated in the exercise, asking them to demonstrate their military’s first aid methods.

“How we do it is good, but how they do it is no less good,” he said.

Stern said some of the UN peacekeepers had previously served on missions along Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria or were due to be stationed there shortly, notably the delegation from Fiji.

IDF Maj. Roy Stern and Cpt. Dr. Kobi Weissmehl train United Nations peacekeepers during the Khaan Quest exercise in Mongolia in June 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Weissmehl, 30, noted that besides the professional aspects of the exercise, Khaan Quest also gave him and Stern the opportunity to interact with and befriend military officials from around the world.

“It is an incredible feeling to make friends from Fiji, New Zealand, China,” he said.

Most of the countries that participated in the exercise maintain diplomatic ties with Israel, but not all.

Qatar, which often works closely with Israeli officials on issues related to the Gaza Strip but does not have formal relations with Jerusalem, took part in Khaan Quest, as did Malaysia, which often refuses to allow Israeli athletes to compete in tournaments held in the country.

Stern said they could not comment on any interactions they may have had with representatives from these countries.

IDF Maj. Roy Stern and Cpt. Dr. Kobi Weissmehl train United Nations peacekeepers during the Khaan Quest exercise in Mongolia in June 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

In addition to the casual interactions, the organizers of the exercise — from the Mongolian and US militaries — also staged cultural events in which countries with larger delegations demonstrated traditional dances, songs and practices, Weissmehl said.

As there were only two of them, the Israeli delegation did not make such a presentation.

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