EU NAVAL FORCE Somalia Operation ATALANTA remains responsive and fully operational despite challenging conditions in the Area of Operations

Jun 17, 2021 - 14:59
The Spanish Medical Officer, Major Cristina Sánchez Alonso is the Medical Planner at the Operations Headquarters of the European Union Naval Force for Somalia. She provides the Operation Command for all operational medical issues and acts as liaison officer between the deployed Forces Headquarters, the Operations Headquarters in Rota and the EU Military Staff in Brussels. She also deals with NATO, CMF and other independent deployers within the Area of Operation.

It is her responsibility to identify and develop the requirements and agreements to provide medical support to the operation by coordinating medical assets in compliance with clinical timelines. Her work also encompasses the coordination, assessment and assurance of Medical Treatment Facilities to maintain coherent Medical Standard Operating Instructions for all Troop Contributing Nations. She also leads all medical planning and real-time life support. Major Sánchez Alonso represents the operation at the AUMS Medical Conference and the Resource Working Group within the SHADE in Bahrain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional tasks to her duties in order to adapt internal procedures of the operation to national regulations regarding PCR tests, quarantine and prevention measures to guarantee the safety of EU NAVFOR Staff and WFP personnel with Operation Atalanta Autonomous Vessels Protection Teams on board.

“The biggest challenge as Medical Planner has been to adapt our work procedures to COVID-19 prevention standards and make sure they are also in-line with national travel regulations regarding PCR tests and quarantine periods. Another demanding task has been to keep our Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachments on the World Food Programme chartered vessel and their crews COVID free, even during crew changes of the different AVPD teams making sure we would comply with quarantine regulations and testing protocols and all while allowing the vessels to maintain their activities and keep their schedules. The COVID-19 vaccination of OHQ staff was another of my responsibilities which proved to be quite complex and not always easy to deliver in a multinational environment”.

Major Sánchez Alonso is a very experienced officer. Before joining the operation, she was deployed to NATO and UN missions in Afghanistan and Lebanon. She has also been involved in the planning of NATO and Partnership for Peace exercises in Macedonia.

“On a more personal note, I would like to mention the women I work here every day. Even though might still underrepresented here, it is rewarding to see how we are growing in numbers and that they are providing a different perspective to the operation adding to the diversity within the Armed Forces and I applauded the decision of the European Union to embrace that fact.”