Twelve Royal Australian Air Force (Air Force) personnel have supported the Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief activity, Exercise Pacific Angel, in Port Moresby and Lae, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The personnel mainly from Combat Support Group elements deployed from 02-13 Sep 2019, through the Health Services Outreach (HSO), the Engineering Civic Action Program and Subject Matter Expert Exchange.
Since its inception in 2007, Pacific Angel has evolved to an annual joint and combined humanitarian operation that provides general health and engineering assistance to nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
This is the second Pacific Angel engagement to take place in Papua New Guinea.
Bowali Primary School is normally home to about 800 children but while the kids are on holiday, the school is currently serving as the health hub.
Officer In Charge (OIC) Australian Contingent and Environment Health Officer, SQNLDR Evelyn Wright said the Air Force is proud to support the PNG community through the delivery of critical health (medical services and public health) and dental services.
“Located at one of the local schools, Bowali in Lae, eight Air Force personnel are embedded with the United States Air Force (USAF) and Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) to support the HSO program,” SQNLDR Wright said.
“Our health services personnel include dentists, a nurse, a medical assistance, a pharmacist, dental assistants and environmental health, and comprise full-time and reserve Air Force personnel.
“The PNG people seem very pleased to see us, especially when you examine the crowds.
“Word has spread across the communities and they have welcomed us with open arms, it’s great to see free health services bring the PNG community together.
“It’s also a great way to share knowledge and connect with our partner nations while giving back to the PNG community - if we have to come together in the future for Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) situations, we can hit the ground running.
“Our participation in Pacific Angel demonstrates the commitment of our countries and its people to a trusted and enduring partnership.”
USAF Maj. Ryan Frederiksen, is part of the multi-lateral medical team helping the PNG people with medical check-ups, dental, optometry and infectious disease treatment.
“The language barrier hasn’t been that difficult but when we have had a few challenges with local dialects, the Red Cross volunteers have been able to interpret and assist with communicating medical prognosis,” Maj. Frederiksen said.
“Our relationship with the PNGDF is excellent, they’ve been able to provide advice particularly around cultural differences which has benefited both USAF and our Aussie mates from the Air Force.
“The Australian contingency has a lot of knowledge to share and it’s been fantastic to work with them again, we are so happy they are here. It’s been a real team effort!”
Australia has been partnering with PNGDF for 40 years and will continue for another 40 years and beyond.
The ADF is committed to further enhance Australia’s regional defence engagement and continue to expand defence cooperation in aviation, maritime, infrastructure and capability development.
Local PNG residents, Stacey and her beautiful daughter Starsha, travelled many miles to visit the Pacific Angel doctors.
“I found out about the free health services from my family,” Stacey said.
“I’ve always had trouble seeing but haven’t been able to afford the eye doctor for 20 years.
“I very much need eye examination and my daughter has a lump on her neck that makes me worry.
“I’m so happy to see Australia and America working with our people, they’re doing a great job.
“Seeing smiles on my people’s faces makes me feel proud and safe.”
Stacey left the HSO with brand new reading glasses and the USAF doctor treated her little daughter Starsha.