U.S. Marines, Soldiers and Sailors unload donated medical supplies March 25 during exercise Balikatan 2011 at Rural Health Unit and Family Planning Center, Candelaria District, Zambales Province, Philippines. Balikatan is a bilateral exercise establi... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

CANDELARIA, Philippines - Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from both the Armed Forces of the Republic of the Philippines and the U.S. military participated in a medical and dental civic action program at Babancal Elementary School in Zambales province March 24 and 25.

The medical personnel from both countries were aided by volunteers from local hospitals, medical care organizations and police departments.

The MEDCAP/DENCAP was part of Balikatan 2011, the 27th in a series of combined, joint efforts between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States military. The goal of these exercises is to maintain military readiness through training and relationship-building between the two countries as well as assist local communities through social initiatives.

The term Balikatan, which means shoulder-to-shoulder in Tagalog, a prominent language in the Philippines, symbolizes the partnership between the two countries as they work together toward a common goal.

Military medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, and medics from both countries are using this exercise to enhance their medical skills while operating in a field environment and learn techniques from each other. This experience will help improve the military readiness of both countries while providing much needed services to local communities.

"We select the sites by meeting with local government officials with our counterparts and supporting their efforts where needs are greatest," said Lt. Col. Greta Bennett, MEDCAP officer in charge, who is assigned to United States Army Pacific.

The team will gain training while supporting local officials.

"We support the local government very much by offering the local people health care," said Army Lt. Col. Gregory L. Docil, commanding officer of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the AFP, who added that, for many, health care is often not readily available.

The mission of the teams was to provide quality medical service while gaining interoperability and real-world experience.

"Our teams will gain from working with each other by gaining experience that can't be gotten in a class room," said Bennett.

Not only were participants able to learn, they were able to give back to the community.

"I want to be able to help patients and take care of them," said Julie Elico, a nurse in Santa Cruz who is volunteering at this MEDCAP. "This gives us an opportunity to work on good communication so we can be confident in each other and our work together."

The MEDCAP at Babancal Elementary School served more than 1,000 patients from the local community during the two-day engagement.

"This kind of activity provides an avenue for the AFP and U.S. to secure a good working relationship while helping the people," said AFP 2nd Lt. Almamae Maquido, a civil military operations officer assigned to the 24th Infantry Battalion. "There is no doubt that this is effective since it is not only the Philippine forces, but also the U.S. partnership in Balikatan."

The AFP and U.S. military will conduct a total of six medical engagements during March and April.

Related Links:

Army.mil: Asia and Pacific news

U.S. Army Pacific FB page


Balikatan 2011 Microsite