BAUCAU, Timor-Leste --
More than 100 members from the U.S. Air Force and New Zealand army joined forces of the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) to provide humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Baucau as part of Operation Pacific Angel in Timor-Leste, which officially ended with a closing ceremony here Sept. 14.
The Pacific Air Forces-led exercise consisted of three tiers -- subject matter expert exchanges, health services outreach and engineering projects.
“The purpose of Operation Pacific Angel is to offer the U.S. and New Zealand militaries to practice with Timor-Leste’s armed forces and civilian agencies so that when disaster strikes, we have already created the relationships and acquired the experience that will allow us to respond quickly and effectively together,” said Ambassador Karen Stanton, U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. “Together, you all carried out a remarkably successful set of activities … There is no better way to demonstrate the strength of the friendship between our three countries than collaboration on a project like this. Thank you (to all who contributed).”
With the help of civil and military interpreters, a three-nation team of medical experts worked for one week during a health services outreach that provided acute care services for 3,272 patients in optometry, dental, family medicine and physical therapy clinics as well as a pharmacy set up at a local gymnasium.
Subject matter expert exchanges at Dili and Baucau hospitals allowed for the repair of medical equipment and provided training of critical lifesaving skills to healthcare staff.
Additionally, electricians, structural craftsmen, carpenters and plumbers from the three nations worked together during the exercise to renovate a local public health university annex and rural health care outpost station.
Finally, a C-130 Hercules assigned to the North Carolina Air National Guard airdropped rice, which a PACANGEL team delivered and donated to a local orphanage.
PACANGEL operations regularly visit locations throughout the Pacific theater to support and build essential emergency support capacity in partner nations. Ali Carlin, charge d’affairs, representing the ambassador of New Zealand, praised the work that was accomplished through multilateral teamwork.
“(This exercise) helped our forces gain skills that are applicable to a wide range of humanitarian and relief situations,” Carlin said. “Working together like this is a win-win and improves technical skills of each individual and the ability to work as a team in a multi-national environment. But most important are the personal relations that are created. In a crisis, there is nothing better than knowing the person on the other end of the phone.”
Previous PACANGEL events were held in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Laos and Nepal. This is the second time a PACAF team visited and worked in Timor-Leste, noted Maj. Gen. Abel Barrientes, mobilization assistant to the PACAF vice commander.
“I applaud the leading role that Timor-Leste has taken in not only providing care and assistance to its own citizens, but in supporting those in need throughout the world,” Barrientes said. “The efforts of (Operation Pacific Angel) are a visible expression of the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and demonstrate our continued resolve for international disaster and humanitarian relief efforts.
“Not only does Pacific Angel allow us to help people in need, but it also helps us to improve our interoperability, with our military and civilian medical and engineering professionals in Timor-Leste and the region,” Barrientes continued. “Through Pacific Angel, we’ve reinforced existing partnerships and will create new friendships aimed at creating a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
In addition to the large-scale impact, Capt. David Santos, F-FDTL exercise lead, said the learning impact on service members at the individual level is paramount.
“I gained so much experience through this operation,” Santos said. “We have multiple nations here and we exchanged our knowledge and skills. This tremendously strengthens our relationships with the U.S. forces and East Timor. My team and I learned a lot about the security and coordination part of it all. We learned more about how to set up large-scale medical treatment and keep it running smoothly. My medics, engineers and security forces take a lot of experience from this.”
To Santos, reaching people in the rural areas surrounding Baucau allowed the local population to benefit from the exercise as well, Santos lauded.
“Working to help our own people is very rewarding,” Santos said. “As soldiers, my men and I serve the people and it’s good for them to see what the F-FDTL can do to help. The people of Baucau were very excited about receiving this treatment and for them it’s interesting to see how New Zealand, U.S. and Timorese forces work together to benefit Timor-Leste.”
Since 2007, PACANGEL missions have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people and helped 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.