News: Thai, US forces team up for weeklong health engagement
Story by Lance Cpl. Jose Lujano
SUKHOTHAI, Thailand - Thai and U.S. service members began conducting a weeklong cooperative health engagement Feb. 11 in the Ban Dan Lan Hoi District, Sukhothai province, Kingdom of Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
For the first three days, service members will provide medical, dental and optometry care to community members.
“The goal of a CHE is to serve some of the medical and dental needs of the community and strengthen relationships,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Zachary M. Smith, with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the officer in charge of the CHE.
News of the engagement was evident as more than 200 community members arrived during the first day.
Royal Thai soldier Maj. Jaiun Panpoun, the medical coordinator with the Royal Thai Army’s 3rd Region, anticipated the turnout and plans are in place to maximize the number of patients treated.
“We are breaking up the days by regions so we are not overwhelmed with patients we cannot attend,” said Panpoun.
This year, Thai service members have assumed more responsibility and have a much more active role providing care.
“It has been amazing to see how diligently our Thai counterparts have been performing for their countrymen,” said Smith. “Together we combine our strengths, techniques and procedures to serve as many patients as we possibly can.”
Smith, who has children of his own, says the number one priority is to ensure the health of the children.
“As a father myself, I want to make sure my kids are taken care of …when I see the parents bring the kids in, we can treat them, and they can walk away healthy and happy,” said Smith.
Thai citizens feel the same way about their children.
Giving up a seat so another child can receive healthcare is the state of mind everyone should have, according to Lamai Songkrin, a local resident and the mother of 1-year-old Nattaporn Songkrin.
“My child is my life,” said Lamai. “It is great that the nations come together providing this service to our people, but most importantly to our children.”
Local health officials will also receive crucial training during the weeklong CHE in order to sustain the progress made during the engagement.
"On the fourth day, our Thai counterparts and us will be giving a class to local health officials about environmental health, preventive medicine, nutrition, maternal health and oral hygiene," said Smith.
"This is a very important step because the details from the class will be the factor which will increase the number of healthier lives in the communities.”
The last day of the CHE will be open to anyone who is unable to be seen during the first few days of the engagement.
“We really want to help as many people as possible … this is a great opportunity to work with our partners and share an amazing experience providing care for local communities," said Smith.
Cobra Gold includes humanitarian and civic assistance projects, which include the cooperative health engagements, a staff exercise and field training exercises. Joint and multinational training is vital to maintaining the readiness and interoperability of all participating military forces.
U.S. involvement in CG 13 demonstrates commitment to building military-to-military interoperability with participating nations and to supporting peace and stability in the region.