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Delivering effective Defence Engagement (Health): lessons from Operation TRENTON (South Sudan)
  1. Martin Bricknell1 and
  2. T Rowland2
  1. 1Centre for Conflict and Health Research, Department of War Studies, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2Defence Medical Academy, The Keep, Defence Medical Services, Lichfield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin Bricknell, Centre for Conflict and Health Research, King's College London, London WC2R 2LS, UK; martin.bricknell{at}


This paper describes the Defence Engagement (Health) (DE(H)) component of the medical mission within the UK deployment to South Sudan under Op TRENTON, the UK troop contribution to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The DE(H) activities provided advice and mentoring to the Vietnamese military medical services to support the predeployment preparation and training of their medical contingent that would undertake a relief in place of the UK personnel providing a Level 2 hospital in Bentiu, South Sudan. The paper describes these UK DE(H) activities at the strategic, operational and tactical levels to show the integration across these levels from January 2017 until the handover of command in South Sudan on 26 October 2018. The UK worked alongside personnel from the US and Australian military medical services to deliver a Field Training Exercise and other capability-building events for personnel from the Vietnamese 175 Military Hospital. The paper shows how a DE(H) programme can have strategic effects by bringing another nation into a United Nations mission, increasing UK diplomatic activity with a partner country, and by ensuring continuity of medical cover to a key UNMISS location after the withdrawal of the UK medical contingent. This paper forms part of a special issue of BMJ Military Health dedicated to DE(H).

  • Organisational development
  • International health services

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  • Contributors MB conceived the paper. TLR was critical to the work described in the paper. Both authors reviewed the paper and made substantial contributions to the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests During the period described in this paper, MB was the Director of Medical Policy, Operations and Capability in 2014–2017 and the UK Surgeon General in 2017–2019. TLR was the Head of Medical Branch in Headquarters Field Army in 2015–2016 and the Commander of the 2nd Medical Brigade in 2016–2019.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.