Idaho National Guard
KAMPOT PROVINCE, Cambodia (3/26/12) – Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers from Charlie Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, assisted with medically treating more than 5,000 Cambodian citizens in a joint Medical Civic Action Program during the Angkor Sentinel 2012 exercise here, March 13 to 23.
Angkor Sentinel is an annual bilateral military exercise sponsored by United States Army Pacific Command and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
The MEDCAP included 16 U.S. Army medical personnel, 15 delegates from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, 17 interpreters, and a medical team from the Children’s Surgical Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Through the combined effort of the RCAF, U.S. Army, and the Children’s Surgical Center thousands of Cambodians were provided medical care that is otherwise difficult for people of rural provinces to receive.
"The experience we’ve had here in Cambodia is incredible and I cherish this opportunity to work side-by-side with our RCAF partners to help people,” said Army 1st Lt. Casey Seckel, of Charlie Company, 145th BSB.
The MEDCAP provided care to Cambodian locals in two different locations; the Kampong Kes Primary School and the Hun Sen Ro Lous School. Men, women, and children of all ages received medical care, dental care, and ophthalmic treatments and surgeries, as well as health care education.
The general medicine team saw the largest majority of patients with common ailments ranging from minor wounds, muscular-skeletal issues, gastrointestinal issues, and high-blood pressure to diseases not often seen in the U.S. including typhoid and tuberculosis.
Army Maj. Heidi Munro, commander of Charlie Company, 145th BSB, said this experience is unlike any training that could be replicated at home for her Soldiers.
“Our training is usually focused on treating combat injuries, this is much more complex because the soldiers have to diagnose actual patients with different illnesses and diseases,” she said.
The Chidren’s Surgical Center performed ophthalmic surgeries, including cataract removal, and prescribed many pairs of eyeglasses.
Army Capt. Andrew Schug, of the Idaho Army National Guard Medical Detachment, was enthusiastic about the mission; “It is definitely a rewarding experience. You hear stories about what it’s going to be like, but it's not until you get a patient standing in front of you, blind in one eye with lymphoma, that you can really understand what we are doing here. That isn’t something anyone can prepare you for.”
Patients also sought dental care - mainly extractions. Dental technicians with the Idaho Army National Guard received hands-on experience in extracting teeth, a skill reserved only for dentists back at home.
“The ability to help the Cambodians who cannot afford dental care, to give them some pain relief is very rewarding,” said Army Spc. Sara McDonald, a dental technician with the Idaho Army National Guard.
The RCAF medical team said the MEDCAP program benefited both nations involved, as well as the ancillary organizations that supported it, as they worked together to help improve the health of the Cambodian population.
Um. Oeun, an RCAF medical officer, expressed his thoughts on working with the U.S. military.
“We all get more experience when we are able to train together and the American military is very helpful in assisting with this mission in Cambodia,” he said. “We are so happy we have the best cooperation with the American military.”
The RCAF has conducted several MEDCAP humanitarian missions with U.S. forces in the past.
“I have done missions often with the Air Force, Navy, and Army,” said Cmdr. Ky Yadeth, of the Royal Cambodian Navy. “I like doing them because I like to see the cooperation between the Cambodian military and the American military."
Interpreters working with the medical team said patients were grateful to receive free health care because many families in rural Cambodia can’t afford medical treatment.
“I think what the soldiers will take away from this experience is an appreciation for everything we have at home, especially health care,” Munro said.