Airmen join multinational effort, offer medical care in Cambodia

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Omari Bernard
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Medical professionals from several nations and agencies recently came together in Pacific Angel 16-2 to promote interoperability with partner nations while delivering humanitarian aid to Cambodians in the Kampot province.

The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces worked alongside U.S., Thai, Vietnamese and Australian counterparts to give care during the humanitarian assistance/civil-military operation mission that also involved nongovernmental organizations.

The majority of the medical supplies were purchased in Thailand and Vietnam, flown in to Cambodia, and then bussed to a local school ground where Pacific Angel medical teams set up centers for pediatrics, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, dentistry and general/preventative health. Each center was manned with medics and doctors, working with each other and their translators.

“Obviously the language barrier is difficult to overcome at times, especially when you’re working in a professional setting prescribing treatment,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Kanter, a dentist deployed from U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. “Everyone has been patient. The people are very warm and welcoming here in Cambodia.”

Kanter said working alongside the dentists from the Royal Cambodian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force has opened his eyes to different ways to treat his patients, making the partnership exchange mutually beneficial.

“Even though we are in one specified field, it’s amazing how other people will approach things both differently and similarly,” he said.

Cambodian Brig. Gen. Candara Vuth, the deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense’s health department, said, “We are happy to work together with the U.S. and the other nations to bring aid to the people of Cambodia.”

According to Vuth, some of the people who live in rural areas are very poor and can’t travel to the hospital in the province. Instead, they rely on natural remedies, like some of the trees that grow around the country.

“Being out in the field, you miss some of things you use when you are practicing medicine at home,” said RAAF Flight Lt. Rowan McCarthy, a Pacific Angel 16-2 general health medical officer. “We can’t order a blood test or conduct X-rays. We don’t know much about the back history of these patients.”

According to McCarthy, it’s normal to see a 60- to 70-year-old patient back home with a medical history.

“Here they may have never seen a doctor before,” he continued. “So going without that makes it more of a challenge but interesting as well.”

With that knowledge in mind, care providers like McCarthy overcome these challenges by focusing on the quality of care and attention to detail they gave to each patient.

“It’s always good to find out how similar some people are,” McCarthy said. “Even though there are different languages and training backgrounds, everyone is pretty similar in our working toward a common goal.”

Most patients had major concerns addressed and were impressed with the level of care provided by the medical providers.

Sok Moeun, a dental patient, said that she was very happy with the care given to her because she was able obtain the service at no cost and check on her dental health at the same time.

“I am thankful for the multinational team that was able to bring healthcare to my village,” she said.

Through Pacific Angel 16-2, medical providers from both Cambodia and other nations benefit by training and forging bonds and partnerships with each other.

“This humanitarian mission will help prepare us in the future for relief operations here, or anywhere in the region,” Kanter said. “It helps to know the type of people you’re working with, who you’re going to be operating with. If you know what to expect going into a situation, it can help you prepare.”

Pacific Angel 16-2 allowed multiple nations to work together so that in the event there was a natural disaster in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the region’s militaries will be prepared to work together to address humanitarian crises.