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U.S. forces care for thousands during PACANGEL-Philippines

by Master Sgt. Allison Day
13th Air Force Public Affairs

3/19/2012 - LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines -- Operation Pacific Angel-Philippines, a joint and combined humanitarian mission, officially wrapped up during a closing ceremony this morning at Bigaa Elementary School, Bigaa, here.

More than 8,500 people in the Bicol Province of Albay received medical, dental and optometry care during the PACANGEL mission March 5 through 10. Hundreds more were the beneficiaries of subject-matter expert exchanges, to include women's health, oral hygiene and water sanitation, and three sites were the locations for engineering support.

"This mission has been a tremendous success," said Lt. Col. Mike Black, PACANGEL mission commander. "We could not have had the success we did without our partners."

The Armed Forces Philippines, Philippine National Police, Cambodian and Tongan military forces, non-governmental agencies, local government units and hundreds of volunteers partnered with 99 U.S. military members to provide humanitarian assistance.

"We've had a great time working with our partners and made many new friends throughout the Albay Province," said Black. "We have accomplished PACANGEL side-by-side, shoulder -to-shoulder and it's been one of the most outstanding experiences of my career."

Patient after patient expressed thanks as they were seen by providers.

"One of our first patients was an elderly lady, who was very emotional and wept as she limped to the medical tent," said Staff Sgt. Katherine Caraballo, 36th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. "As we helped her to her seat, I asked why she was crying and she said, 'these are tears of joy, because I am happy that you are here.'"

At that moment, Caraballo said, she realized how much the mission meant to the people of Bicol and what serving meant to her.

Master Sgt. Richardson, Headquarters Air Force surgeon general office international health specialist, Washington, D.C., had similar feelings.

"Operations like this are what I love to do and why I continue to do it after 22 years of service," she said. "One of my memorable things on this deployment is how gracious the host nation was to us. The way they take care of people is pleasing to my soul."

Providing care to patients could not have been possible without AFP and PNP resolving credentialing issues.

"Without their help providers would not have been credentialed by the Philippine government to practice medicine here," said. Lt. Col. Timothy Martinez, 13th Air Force Surgeon General chief of medical operations, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "We promised the host nation we would see 5,500 patients but we ended up caring for 8,588 Filipinos from this community."

Although the amount of patients increased by more than 50 percent, Martinez said, "PNP and Dios Mabalos Po Foundation came to our rescue by donating critical supplies." He also stressed the relationship with PACANGEL partners was, "a true partnership."

The relationships built and sustained with our multinational partners in the Asia-Pacific region through operations like these help tremendously in humanitarian efforts and in preserving peace and stability in the region, explained Black.

Operation PACANGEL is led by 13th Air Force, JBPHH. There are three more PACANGELs scheduled this year in Laos, Vietnam and Nepal.

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