NEWS | July 2, 2018

Pacific Angel 18-1 Concludes in Timor-Leste

By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton U.S. Pacific Air Forces

More than 80 multilateral service members, health care providers, translators and volunteers from Timor-Leste, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and the United States joined forces in Suai, Timor-Leste, during Pacific Angel (PAC ANGEL)18-1, June 5-18, 2018, building partnership capacity and enhancing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.

“I’m always amazed every time I go around the Pacific at how welcoming everyone is here—they’re truly happy to see you” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Catherine Grush, the PAC ANGEL 18-1 mission commander. “It’s a neat opportunity to meet new people, see different cultures, see how people operate, and then realize how resilient they are. It’sjust a great thing to see throughout the Indo-Pacific.”

Grush and her team, which included general health practitioners, dentists, optometrists, pediatricians and engineers. The medical services team held a health services outreach site June 11 to 16, and the mission engineers conducted seven projects at two schools and the hospital in Cova Lima Municipality.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, during the engagement’s closing ceremonies said, “These facilities will improve the quality of education and health for more than 65,000 Timorese living in Suai and the surrounding areas.”

“I would like to commend the U.S. Air Force, the Government of Timor-Leste, the [
Timor-Leste Defense Force], local officials, medical professionals, and the other various partners who collaborated in this remarkable effort,” Fitzpatrick added. “Without your hard work and dedication, this mission would not have been successful. PAC ANGEL is a wonderful example of how the United States is working together with Timor-Leste to build capacity and partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States of America has supported Timor-Leste since its independence, and we are very proud to continue our strong relations.”

Several U.S. medical officers conducted subject-matter expert exchanges with local hospital staff, sharing background information and techniques with each other to benefit all involved nations both now and in future engagements. 

Nazario Dos Santos, the Suai Referral Hospital general medicine director said the information he learned from the PAC ANGEL team will help his staff treat those living in Suai.

“PAC ANGEL saves lives,” he said.

The U.S. and partner nations across the Indo-Pacific region remain dedicated to working together with Timor-Leste through the execution of concurrent medical health services outreach and engineering civic actions projects while partnering with multilateral military and civilian participants. 

“At the end of the day, it’s not about how much medicine has been handed out or construction projects completed; it’s about the lasting personal connections we make with our multilateral partners, Timor-Leste Defense Force counterparts and the Timorese,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Damon Weigl, the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron expeditionary engineer section chief from Kadena Air Base (AB), Japan.

Now entering its eleventh year, PAC ANGEL ensures the region's militaries remain prepared to work together to address humanitarian crises. 

“The impact that we’re able to have on these communities is immeasurable,” said

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Haggerty, PAC ANGEL 18-1 antiterrorism officer with the 18th Security Forces Squadron from Kadena AB, Japan. “We’re able to come in and help people that have never had access to medical care in their entire lives or very limited access and bring advanced medical care and treatment and equipment here for the Timorese.”

The health services outreach site helped an average of more than 500 patients every day accumulating nearly 5,500 patient encounters over the six days the site remained open at the Negri Saran Kote Secondary School in Cova Lima Municipality. 

“It is very life impacting here to go to a school and see 20 to 30 children continuing to work on their education,” Grush said. “You have to soak that stuff in; those are the things you take back with you and talk about for years.”

Similarly, Haggerty said it’s all about the connections he’s made.

“Just interacting with the local community when we’re on the job and when we’re off is an amazing and rewarding experience,” Haggerty said.

This is the first of four humanitarian assistance engagements that make up PAC ANGEL 18. Later this summer, U.S. Pacific Air Forces will conduct three additional Pacific Angels in Vietnam, Vanuatu and Sri Lanka.