Change of Command in the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine
Representing the Minister of Defence of Hungary, State Secretary Mr. Tamás Vargha and representing the Commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces, Major General Tibor Bozó participated in the ceremony as well. Among others, the Surgeon Generals of the NATO MILMED COE member states took part in the ceremony, including Dr. Major General István Kopcsó, Commander of the HDF Medical Centre.
Colonel Dr. László Fazekas first started his career at NATO MILMED COE in 2008, as the Branch Chief of the Training Branch and went on to be the deputy director in 2014, and from 2016 to 2019 he represented the organization as Director. In recent years, he worked as ACOS/JMED Medical Adviser of the Allied Command Operations.
In his speech, Brigadier General Dr. Dirk-Friedrich Klagges emphasized the developments of the Centre in the recent years. The past period was mainly determined by the COVID pandemic, but it did not cause any interruption in the life of the organization. The NATO MILMED COE has hosted the meetings of the Committee of the Chiefs of Medical Services in NATO (COMEDS) and its working groups. The Force Health Protection Branch has become the tip of the spear in the COVID-related activities, as they have gathered invaluable information by holding regular meetings for the military-medical and civilian subject matter experts on the forefront of the overall effort against the pandemic and shared this and other information in hundreds of regular situation reports and building up a thematic information portal.
The COE has also set out to create a tangible, working early warning system for infectious diseases based on signs and symptoms, which culminated in the Near-real-time Surveillance Project, a system we have tested in multiple exercises and that we are bringing to KFOR in these days. During the pandemic the COE started to develop several fully online and hybrid learning materials, with which we hope to fill niches even when we have a normal day-to-day operation.
In this turbulent period, the MILMED COE, in close cooperation with MMCC/EMC, managed to organize a live tabletop exercise – Vigorous Warrior / Casualty Move 22 Exercise – in a safe manner with a limited number of participants, yet exercised complex processes on multiple levels which are often relegated to the background on large-scale, live events.
State Secretary Tamás Vargha pointed out, that the Hungarian Defence Forces are particularly active in the field of military medicine and the expertise and determination of the Hungarian doctors are widely recognized. He added, that fourteen years ago, Hungary together with eleven nations decided to establish this centre of excellence and the results achieved since then are the joint successes of all of us. He also stated that Colonel Fazekas is very experienced leader who has already proven his abilities at the helm of the COE and that he has every confidence in his continued success.
Major General Tim Hodgetts, Chairman of the NATO COMEDS, spoke about how further trainings remain a key element in NATO, because due to geopolitical changes, the system of wartime tasks needs to be reconsidered. The general thanked the outgoing director for his outstanding performance during the pandemic.
Colonel Dr. László Fazekas, the upcoming director of the NATO MILMED COE talked about how the lessons learned of the pandemic situation can be effectively put into practice in the present. He also promised hard work for the following years in order to ensure that the COE stays relevant in military-medicine.
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