BAUCAU, Timor-Leste --
Members of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL), and New Zealand army began humanitarian assistance operations as part of Pacific Angel 15-2 Sept. 7.
During the joint humanitarian and civic-military exercise, the PACANGEL team — made up of military doctors, dentists, carpenters, plumbers and planners — work together in partnership with local non-governmental organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the residents of Baucau, a coastal town located east of Dili, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
“Pacific Angel is one of [Pacific Air Force’s] premier engagement events and allows us to come out with our host nation partners in preparation for potential humanitarian and disaster relief efforts,” said Lt. Col. Edward Khim, Pacific Angel 15-2 commander. “The focus of this mission is to reach out to our partner nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and develop the skills, techniques and procedures of all participants. There are a lot of good things and valuable lessons that will come out of this mission and we look forward to working with our Timor-Leste and New Zealand team members.”
Timorese, U.S. and New Zealand military personnel kicked off the exercise by conducting civil engineering projects and opening a health services outreach clinic in a local town gymnasium. The clinic includes physical therapy, optometry, dental and family medicine sections, as well as a small pharmacy.
With the help of volunteer interpreters, doctors and medical technicians, the teams will provide acute care and educate patients on preventative health measures for various ailments.
The medical teams expect to see and treat about 500 patients a day, with a focus on quality of care over quantity, said Lt. Col. Paul Conroy, Pacific Angel 15-2 lead public health planner.
“Our goal is not to see as many patients as we can and rush through treatment,” Conroy said. “Instead, we’re taking the time so that our provider teams can sit down side-by-side and take the time to learn from each other.”
The operation is also a great chance for U.S. Airmen to learn from the host nation providers about tropical diseases and local procedures, Conroy continued.
“Our Airmen get to come out and see what it’s like to do our job in what we would consider an austere environment, using basic equipment in basic accommodations,” he said. “Our professionals work hand-in-hand with physicians from the F-FDTL and the Timorese Ministry of Health. It is an experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else. In PACAF we’re frequently called to assist in disaster relief missions, and PACANGEL prepares our Airmen better than anything else we could do.”
During the engineering portion, a multi-national military team of electricians, structural craftsmen, carpenters and plumbers will work together to repair and replace doors, locks, windows, wiring, ceilings, faucets, toilets and air conditioning units to revitalize a public health classroom annex of the Timor-Leste University of Peace.
During the eighth iteration of PACIFIC ANGEL, the teams will be training in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through Sept. 11.
Khim said the value of the exchanges in public health and engineering encourages partner countries to build relationships, which ultimately serve to preserve peace and stability in the region.
“Short of an actual humanitarian assistance mission, this is the next best training opportunity for our Airmen,” he said. “This is where the rubber meets the road and we’re doing our real-world mission, showing the community what the U.S. and our allies can contribute during a real emergency situation.”
Since 2007, PACANGEL missions have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people and help local government and international aid agencies respond more quickly to emergencies. It enables them to assume control of recovery efforts in their wake by enabling them to more efficiently use equipment, training and connections they already have to provide medical and engineering assistance to local citizens in need.