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Countries converge for PACANGEL Papua New Guinea

EASTERN HIGHLANDS PROVINCE, Papua New Guinea (AFNS) -- A six-nation Pacific Angel 15-4 team arrived June 1 in the Eastern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea.

The PACANGEL team – made up of doctors, dentists, plumbers and planners from Papua New Guinea, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia -- tumbled out of trucks in Goroka, a town of 20,000 people located a mile above sea level, to deliver humanitarian assistance and build disaster relief abilities with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

The value of the exchanges taking place in tropical medicine, public health and engineering encourages partner countries to build relationships through these various programs, preserving peace and stability in the region.

The operation helps Papua New Guinea military and civil health groups recognize and cope with the complexity of a disaster like the typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods characteristic of the South Pacific, said U.S. Air Force Lt Col. Courtney Finkbeiner, a nurse and leader of the operation's medical subject matter expert exchange teams.

"Disaster is chaotic enough," she continued. "All of the (Papua New Guinea) medical professionals know how to care for patients; we only try to show them how we organize in a crisis."

Appreciating that context of mutual reliance and assistance is critical to understanding the aid picture in the South Pacific, emphasizing cooperation amongst countries.

"We all have different outlooks, but in a situation like Pacific Angel, we have to consult with each other," said Philippine Army Capt. Donald Palmer, a Philippines Medical Corps doctor. "We take our (national) experiences and turn them into multilateral ability, where each country can help the other."

Missions like PACANGEL help local government and international aid agencies respond more quickly to crises within a country's borders and assume control of recovery in their wake, enabling them to better use the equipment, training and connections they already have.

For instance, PACANGEL missions to Nepal in recent years helped more than 9,000 people in that country. More critically, the missions brought together the Nepalese, American, Australian and other military and civilian aid agencies who later formed the joint task force that responded to the devastation following the earthquake near Kathmandu weeks ago.

For many of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force members, all the disaster training and activity resonate strongly with experience.

"We've been through the real things, many times before," said Papua New Guinea Defence Force Maj. Wilson Andrews, the PACANGEL lead host nation planner.

This summer marks the eighth iteration of PACANGEL. The teams will be training in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through June 8.

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