(RFE/RL) – Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian inaugurated a U.S.-sponsored paramedic school of the Armenian armed forces on Monday after praising Armenia’s growing military cooperation with the United States.
Sargsian met with the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Richard Mills, two weeks after being appointed by President Serzh Sarkisian to run the Armenian Defense Ministry. A ministry statement said he “highly appraised” the current state of U.S.-Armenian defense ties an “expressed confidence that they will continue to develop successfully.”
The statement added that Sargsian and Mills discussed those ties as well as “regional security.” It gave no details.
The two men as well as the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Lieutenant General Movses Hakobian, officially opened the paramedic school later in the day. In a speech at the opening ceremony cited by his press office, the U.S.-educated minister stressed the importance of the facility for providing first medical aid to soldiers wounded in action. He said school graduates will also be able to use their skills in civilian life.
U.S. military instructors trained the first group of teaching personnel for the school last year. The 12 Armenian trainers of military medics completed a three-month training course in August 2015 at a ceremony that was attended by Mills and then Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian.
“Thanks to you, more of your brothers and sisters in arms will return home from … dangerous places where you agree to go in the name of peace,” Mills said at that ceremony.
The U.S. envoy appeared to allude to Armenia’s plans to join more multinational peacekeeping missions abroad with specialized medical and demining units. Those units will undergo NATO training before their deployment.
As recently as last month, hundreds of Armenian troops simulated evacuation of wounded soldiers and provision to urgent medical aid to civilians in an exercise that was monitored by NATO officers. And in April, a 32-strong unit of Armenian military medics participated in U.S.-led multinational drills in Germany.
Despite its close military ties with Russia, Armenia has stepped up defense cooperation with the U.S. and NATO in general over the past decade. In particular, it has contributed troops to ongoing NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Photo Caption 1: Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian and U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills visit the Armenian army’s new paramedic school in Yerevan on October 17, 2016.
Photo Caption 2: A U.S. military instructor trains teaching personnel for the Armenian army’s paramedic school on August 28, 2015.