SITUBUNDO, Indonesia - Indonesian and U.S. medical personnel provided free medical attention to more than 350 patients during a Cooperative Health Engagement, CHE, held in Sumber Waru Village, Situbundo, Indonesia.
The CHE brought soldiers, nurses and doctors together from the Indonesian Armed Forces' 2nd Medical Battalion, local health centers, and two members from the U.S. Army Reserve's 628th Forward Surgical Team out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to assist residents from the Situbondo district of Indonesia.
This kind of community outreach event has consistently been held in conjunction with Garuda Shield, an annual bilateral exercise with the U.S. Army Pacific and Indonesian Armed Forces, and Indonesian Army units across the country perform community projects throughout the year.
The 2nd Medical Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Tjoeng Armand Tobias Lazar, said the CHE is not only an event "for the people," but one that shows another side of soldiers.
"These types of events give soldiers an opportunity to play an active role in the society," Lazar said. "These people will look back and reflect on the services provided to them. So whenever there are opportunities like this in the future, the soldiers will be loved by the people."
While Garuda Shield 2014 is a training exercise to help enhance cooperative capabilities that will be used during real world applications in the future, Wanek explained that the CHE is a "real world" application.
"This event helps foster good will and build faith among the soldiers, the community and the nation," said Portland native, Col. Sandra Wanek, general surgeon, 628th FST.
"What we are doing here is just as important to us, as it is to them," Wanek said. "I spend a lot of my time in an Intensive Care Unit. It is a very hi-tech world. Being here allows you to get back to the fundamentals and rely on the training and experiences that you have had in the past. This is fun."
Maj. Anisa Garcia, a physician assistant and the 628th FST Commander, explained the importance of being out here and demonstrating not only the U.S. Army's medical capabilities, but being able to work with our Indonesian counterparts.
"People know we are strong from a tactical standpoint, but they may not understand or see that we have a soft side," said Garcia, an Elizabeth, N.J., native. "This is a perfect situation where we can showcase that to these patients."
Ismiati, a patient who came to get a check up, expressed her sentiment of the U.S.-Indonesian event.
"I was happy and fortunate to see the doctors," said the 50-year-old local. "Their collaborative effort was impressive. I hope that this is something that continues in the future."
While U.S. and Indonesians are here working to strengthen their relationship during Garuda Shield, which is now in its eighth iteration, the 350 patients are a testament to the importance of taking advantage of opportunities like this in the future.
"Being here and having the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships outside of the training environment is what it's all about," said Garcia, who participated in a similar event during Orient Shield 2012 in Japan. "It is nice to do something for the people."