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    Fort Lewis Medical Team assists Philippine Marines

    Fort Lewis Medical Team assists Philippine Marines

    Courtesy Photo | U.S. Army Capt. Dennis Rufolo, second from left, talks with representatives of the...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific

    By Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Scott

    SULU, Philippines - A small team of doctors and dentists from Ft. Lewis, Wash., recently arrived in Sulu, an island-chain Province in the southwest Philippines, to assist the Philippine Marines in their new strategy to work closely with local communities.

    The medical team, from 1st Special Forces Group, is temporarily assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines and spent four days conducting Medical and Dental Civic Action Projects, May 22-25. The MEDCAPs were coordinated and facilitated by Philippine Marines assigned to Marine Battalion Landing Teams 4, 5, and 6; as well as representatives from the Sulu provincial Departments of Agriculture and Health and the Sulu Integrated Provincial Health Office.

    The MEDCAPs provided medical and dental assistance and hands-on health information to more than 750 people from more than 20 barangays (communities) within three municipalities of Sulu.

    "We came down here to support the JSOTF-P mission through MEDCAPs," said Maj. Michael Brooks, Dentist with 1st SFG.

    "Supporting the mission of the JSOTF-P, to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their fight against terrorism, aligns with the new approach the Marines in southern Mindanao and Sulu are taking to deny safe havens for lawless groups through projects such as these," he added.

    The Philippine marines' new strategy of helping local communities through medical assistance, road improvement projects, school renovations, and education is a change from their previous focus on primarily combat operations. These efforts are focused on providing long-term security and stability, which leads to development and prosperity, and is proving to be effective

    "This is a long process and we have changed our strategy to a more civil military operation focus and not just of only going after the enemy," said Lt. Col. Elias Jucen Jr., Commander, MBLT 4. "Through our CMO efforts, we create friends, not enemies."

    At a MEDCAP conducted at Parang District Hospital, Dr. Jubaira Isnain, chief of the hospital, commended the Marines on the paradigm shift from operations to their new strategy of incorporating other organizations into community outreach projects.

    "The Marines have developed a triad; the Sulu Provincial Department of Health and local government working together. Today's event is the glue that bonds this triad together," said Isnain, a native of Sulu.

    Abdurahman Tungupun, Parang High School nurse and area religious leader president, volunteered his services during the MEDCAP. He felt the partnership between the government, local government, and military was very important to a longer-lasting peace in Sulu.

    "This is a positive reaction from the past, especially with helping the children. People realize the Armed Forces of the Philippines are not advocates of war, but advocates for peace and health," he said.

    During each MEDCAP, public health and hygiene classes were taught to the local families through educational and interactive means. Capt. Dennis Rufolo, SFG Environmental Science Officer, helped coordinate and teach these classes with local Ministry of Health personnel.

    "We were able to provide valuable health services and health education to those who have limited access to healthcare," said Rufolo. "The AFP and MBLTs took the lead and were responsible for this success."

    "Through Mercia Alia, chief of Operations for the Sulu Provincial Department of Agriculture, I was able to teach a very basic but effective food safety class and during the presentation we tailored it to their specific living environments," said Rufolo. "When we had women actually asking us specific questions about their situations and how to protect their families, I knew we were making a difference because they were paying attention and cared."

    Hja Lydra Hayudini, from a neighboring municipality, came to the MEDCAP to see a health care provider about the pain she is having in her back. Before seeing a doctor, she worked with Mercia Ali and Capt. Rufolo. Standing on stage, Hayudini provided her perspective on the importance of good health habits and sanitation when handling food to those attending the MEDCAP.

    "They [Filipinos] come home and cook with dirty hands and someone in their family gets sick," Hayudini said about the importance of providing hygiene and heath education. "They have no money to see a doctor, so this education is vital to the health of the overall family."

    Lt. Col. Jucen also supports the goal of long-term peace building through proper education.

    "These events are more than providing services to the people," he said. "It is also about providing information to help them over time. Medicine may last for a few days, but information and education last a lifetime."

    Despite this being the second deployment to the Philippines for a couple of the team members, they are still amazed at the local hospitality.

    "They're [local community] so grateful for what you do for them and they treat you well." said Staff Sgt. Rosa Duran, a dental technician.

    Through these cooperative projects, the medical team is certain that the local government and AFP will continue to work together and promote these goodwill efforts.

    "There was a great turnout of AFP forces and local volunteers who came out and helped the community," said Maj. Mark Anderson, JSOTF-P Command Surgeon.

    Contributing to the civil operations mission of the Marines is a long-lasting endeavor that the medical team is glad to be a part of.

    "I think it's great we were working beside our Filipino counterparts," said Anderson. "The mission of the JSOTF-P is to support the efforts of the AFP, and that's exactly what we were able to do."

    With the assistance of the 1st Special Forces Group medical team, the Philippine marines were able to take one more step forward in their efforts to help the community receive needed information and medical care. The team from Washington State continues their efforts in upcoming projects in central Mindanao this week.



    Date Taken: 05.22.2010
    Date Posted: 06.03.2010 01:33
    Story ID: 50749
    Location: SULU, PH

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