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MEDCAP/DENCAP Launches From Juneau in Support of Balikatan

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS060226-01

By Journalist 3rd Class Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

PANAMAO, Republic of Philippines (NNS) -- Twenty-seven U.S. Navy and Army personnel paired up with 25 Armed Forces of the Philipines (AFP) medical personnel Feb. 22, as part of Exercise Balikatan 2006, to offer medical and dental treatment to 1216 Filipino people and 24 animals in the town of Panamao, Republic of Philippines.

The doctors, dentists and veterinarians were air lifted into Panamao by CH-46E Sea Knights of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) Air Combat Element (ACE), launching from USS Juneau (LPD 10), part of the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

Once at the assistance site, the medical and dental personnel teamed up with the AFP personnel in their respective fields and began seeing patients. Services provided ranged from pediatric to minor surgery. The emphasis of Balikatan, which translates in Tagalog, the Filipino native language, to “shouldering the load together.” Such emphasis was evident at the medical assistance project.

“We were truly felt the we were ‘shouldering the load’ together today,” said Army Col. David Crudo, Balikatan MEDCAP/DENCAP coordinator and planner, who has participated in 10 other projects of this type in the Balikatan series, this year marking the 22nd. “They really filled some areas where we were lacking like optometry, contributed greatly in pharmaceuticals and just in general, providing a very contributing helping hand to the efforts. We certainly couldn’t have seen the volume of patients we saw without them.”

The Forward Deployed ARG consisting of USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and Juneau, along with USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and 31st MEU, Joint Task Force (JTF) Balikatan arrived in Subic Bay Feb. 17 for the bilateral exercise Balikatan 2006, but were immediately called to assist in the relief efforts in Southern Leyte. Juneau split with the ARG to complete the Civil Military Operations (CMO) as part of Balikatan on the island of Jolo.

“Overall, the ARG is doing some tremendous humanitarian work, and I tell these Marines, Sailors and Soldiers that here in Jolo that they should be proud of the work they are doing,” said Capt. Ronald Horton, Juneau commanding officer. “Whether we are in Southern Leyte or here in Jolo, we are committed to assisting the Philippine people. I feel greatly honored that the Juneau can provide the platform for such a contribution as what these doctors, dentists and veterinarians are making.”

At the assistance site, the medical and dental personnel were happy to make a difference.

“Just to see the smiles of the kids and the smiles of their parents as we treated them and gave them antibiotics to make them better, was incredibly rewarding,” said Army Maj. Jane E. Gross. “To be able to offer them something to make their life better is extremely powerful.”

The MEDCAP/DENCAP Feb. 22 is part of a wide sweeping CMO effort during Balikatan. The MEDCAP/DENCAP team embarked on Juneau has seven total missions in Jolo planned while simultaneously, civil engineers of the 31st MEU are working on a Engineering Civil Assistance Project (ENCAP) to build four three-room elementary schools in Jolo — one in Jolo City, two in Panamao and one in Maimbang.

“Looking at the number of patients we’ll see through duration Balikatan, we know we are making a big impact here,” said Crudo, who estimates that in the 15 MEDCAPS he’s participated in over the course of his military career, he and other doctors have been able to treat more than 200,000 people. “These people need this assistance greatly, and we look forward to helping out as many as we can while establishing a long lasting bond with AFP personnel working alongside us.”

The Forward Deployed ARG is part of Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, which is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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