News: Lasting memories are made while supporting Pacific Partnership 2012
Story by Julianne Sympson
NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — Since May 1, seven personnel from the Joint Communications Support Element, a subordinate command of the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, have been embarked on the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) supporting Pacific Partnership 2012, a humanitarian assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific region. In the midst of their deployment, these highly trained communicators took time to reflect on the lasting impact this unique mission has already had on them.
JCSE provides rapidly deployable, mission-tailored teams of highly trained communicators to support worldwide joint mission requirements. Similar to the communications services they would provide to a joint force commander, the team from the 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron, a Georgia Air National Guard unit aligned with JCSE, has provided ship-to-shore communications services during PP12.
The seven JCSE members are among 1,200 personnel aboard the Mercy consisting of medical, dental, veterinarian and engineering teams who are providing a range of procedures and civic activities to support the local populace during each scheduled port visit. These teams consist of personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand, all four services of the U.S. military, government and non-government organizations and numerous volunteer groups.
JCSE member, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Vining, commented on how his team’s direct support in communications services has eased communications challenges for the healthcare providers and the civil engineers.
“Communications in the middle of a rural area, giving real-time request and response to and from the Mercy each day has provided a capability that was otherwise non-existent,” said Vining. “The reliability and speed of our services allowed the Medical Civil Action Project teams to query the ship for a patient surgery or treatment and give a response within a matter of minutes.”
The Pacific Partnership mission promotes multilateral cooperation among its participants and their compassion has been illustrated in the diligent efforts they’ve provided to the local communities. This mission exemplifies how the international community is collectively working towards building partnerships and improving quality of life for people in the Asia-Pacific region.
While deployed to various sites in Indonesia, PP12 provided engineering subject matter experts who initiated the construction of a brand-new emergency care building, a pharmacy and supplied much needed renovations to sanitation facilities and a nearby clinic. The JCSE teams provided mission-critical communications services to support the MEDCAP teams as they executed significant logistical operations and made a visible difference in the community.
One medical team member supporting PP12, Dr. Lynn Bemiller, the Medical Director from Project Hope, spoke of how JCSE team member, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles Grant, fixed processes while supporting a MEDCAP team on site.
“His first project was to engineer flow in and out of our little pharmacy until he got our wait times consistently down to 15 minutes,” said Bemiller. “That was so successful he took a look at our registration and waiting room processes, made a few changes and then we had our process so smooth that over 600 patients flowed through the site in a six-hour timeframe with no hang up.”
Following the stop in Indonesia, Mercy continued its journey to the Philippines where the medical teams worked with local healthcare providers to complete a record-breaking 36 surgeries and offer medical screening to over 700 patients in one day. JCSE was on hand to provide the critical ship-to-shore communications needed for the physicians and medical technicians on site to complete these humanitarian missions.
Another JCSE team member, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Abel, spoke of how this humanitarian assistance mission has impacted him and the incredible reception the Pacific Partnership personnel have received at each site.
“The reception at both places, [Indonesia and the Philippines], was unbelievable. We arrived as early as 7 a.m. and there were hundreds of people waiting patiently for us,” said Abel. “Even after the Medical Civil Action Project was completed, we were offered small gifts of thanks and even celebrated with their local customs and traditions in place.”
The goodwill and combined efforts of these dedicated service members, government civilians and volunteers have helped thousands so far and continue to make a considerable difference during this exceptional mission. The JCSE team is looking forward to continuing their journey to strengthen partnerships and provide similar humanitarian assistance in Vietnam and Cambodia. PP12 is scheduled to conclude in early September.