Pacific Angel 17-3 begins, U.S. and Fiji share medical expertise
By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Stratton, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 18, 2017
LAUTOKA, Fiji -- The United States and Republic of Fiji Military Forces along with several nongovernmental organizations joined ranks to kick off Pacific Angel 2017 with humanitarian assistance and subject matter expert exchanges July 11 to 24.
PACANGEL missions consist of several concurrent civil-military assistance activities including medical programs, various subject-matter expert exchanges and civic and engineering assistance programs.
During this exercise, U.S. and Fijian service members have the opportunity to work in partnership with local nongovernmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the residents in the subdivisions of Ba, Tavua and Savusavu, Fiji.
While most of the PACANGEL team worked all week to prepare for next week’s health services and civil engineer programs, the subject-matter experts jumped right into information exchanges with their Fijian counterparts.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Paola Rosa, an obstetrician and gynecologist with the 35th Surgical Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, shared how her experience better prepared her for future engagements with partner nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“It broadened my perspective on how other countries practice medicine,” Rosa said. “While the U.S. has specialists for nearly every ailment, Fiji has many general practice doctors who may not necessarily have the individualized experience in specific areas of medicine, and we got to share that knowledge with them.”
She added that while they taught the Fijians some new tricks, they also learned quite a bit as well.
“They practice medicine a little differently than us in a few areas and have found some really great cures for common ailments we’ve never thought of in America,” explained Rosa.
Similarly, the Fijians expressed how grateful they were for the information learned from the Americans and the opportunity to work hand-in-hand on topics important to the communities they serve.
“I really enjoyed interacting with the Americans,” said Alelia Vonotabua, a nurse with the Ba Mission Hospital. “I found the information they presented fascinating and they presented it in such a way that made it really easy to understand and be able to take back and apply with our patients.”
The Fijians said much of their medical knowledge and understanding comes from textbooks, which may not always help in real world situations. Siteri Sautuca, a medical officer with the Nailaga Health Center, Ba Medical Center Division, shared how this approach really opened her eyes and helped her understand her previous training in a whole new light.
“They shared with us tools we can use, which is really going to make a difference for Fijian health care,” Sautuca explained. “We don’t have many opportunities to learn from other nations and so this was a great experience getting to work with the Americans and exchange information in a classroom setting.”
Sautuca said she wishes the training had lasted longer.
“One week, no, two weeks would have been much better!” she exclaimed. “I loved learning from the Americans and look forward to future opportunities such as this one.”
U.S. Air Force Capt. Amber Britt, a public health officer with the 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, also raved on the experience.
“I learned of a few local remedies I would’ve never thought of for various diseases present in both our countries,” she explained. “It’s been a fascinating exchange learning from people that are so innovative in everything they’ve accomplished—it was simply amazing.”
PACANGELs have built positive relations through interactions such as these for the last decade in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mongolia, Laos, Tonga, Nepal and Papua New Guinea.
PACANGEL 17-3 continues through July 24 with multilateral international participants from across the Indo-Asia-Pacific working together to assist the local community and improve capabilities amongst each other as one team.
“I’m proud of all the work our team has already accomplished and look forward to the great work we’re doing alongside our Fijian partners over the next several weeks,” said Lt. Col. Catherine Grush, the mission commander. “These operations will cement our interoperability with Fiji and provide much-needed assistance to the local community; we’ve got a great team and we’re honored to be here at the request of the Fijian government.”