Airmen begin humanitarian mission in Vietnam
by Tech. Sgt. Kerry Jackson
13th Air Force Public Affairs
9/18/2009 - QUANG TRI PROVINCE, Vietnam (AFNS) -- U.S. civil engineer and medical Airmen are here providing humanitarian and civic assistance to local communities Sept. 15 to 24 as part of Operation Pacific Angel 2009.
Operation Pacific Angel is a joint and combined humanitarian assistance operation conducted in the Pacific area of responsibility to support U.S. Pacific Command's capacity-building efforts. This humanitarian and civic assistance program is aimed at improving military civic cooperation between the United States and countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
"Our team has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and we feel privileged to support this humanitarian effort alongside our Vietnamese counterparts," said Lt. Col. Alvin Alana, the operations officer for the Pacific Angel events in Vietnam. "We understand the quality-of-life value that the construction and medical missions provide the Quang Tri Province community, and we look forward to strengthening the bonds of friendship with the Vietnamese during our time here."
The medical team will provide general medical care to Quang Tri Province residents, to include care for chronic illnesses, acute illnesses, diabetes, hypertension, and treatment for parasites, along with routine dental and optometry care. Engineering efforts will include plumbing, electrical and structural work at the Thuy Medical Center.
The medical and civil engineer teams are working alongside the local East Meets West Foundation, a non-governmental organization that believes every person deserves access to clean water, proper medical treatment and a solid education.
"It's very important to Vietnamese people to know that the American people and the U.S. government came here to help improve the living conditions of Vietnamese people," said Tran Thi Minh Huong, national coordinator of the East Meets West Foundation. "It's very appreciated."
This operation is unique in that dentists will provide a comprehensive package of dental care to include complete dental exams, x-rays, fillings, cleanings, sealings and oral hygiene education. Traditionally, dental care in remote locations is limited to dental extractions, even if teeth could be saved were more resources available.
"We are able to provide elevated levels of dental care, similar to care available in the United States, even though we are in a remote-field site," said Capt. (Dr.) Charles Craft, a reserve corps dental officer with United Stated Public Health Service and the liaison officer between the Air Force and the East Meets West Foundation here in Vietnam.
"Typically, only extractions are available, but because we are partnering with an established NGO that has been here for more than 10 years, we are able to provide a more comprehensive level of care," Dr. Craft said.
The team has already seen approximately 1,177 patients since opening their doors on Sept. 17, with more than 5,000 patients expected during the duration of the mission.
Pacific Angel is a Pacific Air Forces operation led by 13th Air Force at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Two previous iterations of Operation Pacific Angel 2009 were conducted in July -- one to Indonesia and another to Timor Leste.
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