Monday, June 11, 2018

Coast Guard Participates in Caribbean Disaster Response Exercise

By Army Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann, 102rd Public Affairs Detachment

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts and Nevis -- U.S. service members and more than 20 Caribbean partner nations’ governments, industrial and civic organizations are taking part in Exercise Tradewinds 2018 here.

Tradewinds is a combined, joint exercise conducted in three phases that helps build the capacity of Caribbean nations to respond to natural disasters, land and maritime threats and illicit trafficking.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Anna V. Blank, who hails from Enterprise, Alabama, along with the crew of the fast response cutter USCGC Joseph Tezanos, based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, are training partner nations’ coast guard members on weapons tactics and gunnery, search and rescue, personnel recovery, pursuit and boarding and vessel towing procedures.

Sharing Knowledge

“That’s what we’re doing here at St. Kitts and Tradewinds -- teaching other coast guards how we do what we do and sharing information and tips,” Blank said.

The exercise also benefits the U.S. crew members by educating and preparing new members by experiencing situations that they don’t encounter every day.

“It’s definitely beneficial for the whole crew,” Blank said. “Just getting experience doing different things, and we’re constantly getting new crew members on board so they get experience.”

There are approximately 1,700 U.S. military, partner-nation security and civilian personnel participating in the exercise. The event is sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, with the goal of building and sustaining enduring relationships throughout the Caribbean region.

Phase one of Tradewinds began June 4, and continues through June 13. Phase two of the exercise will take place in the Bahamas and phase three will be held in Miami.

Military Doctors Conduct Infectious Diseases Training in Panama

By Air Force Senior Airman Dustin Mullen, 325th Fighter Wing

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- A team of U.S. military doctors, public health specialists and members of other career fields participated in infectious diseases training here, June 4-8.

The training took place during Exercise New Horizons 2018, which is a joint training exercise where U.S. military members conduct training in civil engineer, medical and support services while benefiting the local community. The training consisted of briefings, lectures and a day of field study.

In collaboration with the Gorgas Institute, University of Panama and the Panamanian Ministry of Health, the team studied various diseases, the vectors that carry them and the ways Panama is combating the diseases.

“Infectious diseases are a huge issue for U.S. Southern Command when it thinks about force health protection in this region,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Neese, 346th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron commander. “We wanted to look at infectious diseases from the many different disciplines that come into it. Clinical medicine, preventative medicine, public health, laboratory specialties, expeditionary capabilities with aerospace medicine and collaboration with Global Health Specialists from the Navy. We brought all that together in this event.”

Lectures From Disease Experts

Throughout the week, the U.S. military doctors participated in lectures from Panamanian infectious disease experts and field studies of possible virus-carrying wildlife and insects.

Such training opportunities enable military doctors to expand their cross-cultural and global health knowledge.

“I have been really struck by the strategic importance of Panama in the United States’ biosecurity,” said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Heather Yun, 346 EMDOS infectious disease physician. “There are a lot of biological threats here in Central America or that try to come here from South America through human migration.”

Due to the geographic location of Panama, the importance the country places on controlling diseases greatly benefits the Unites States, as well as other Central American countries.

“Panamanian efforts to halt infectious disease transmission functions as a barrier for transmission of viruses such as yellow fever,” Yun said, noting Panama’s disease control methods. “If we didn’t have that kind of surveillance here, then the U.S. would be at increased risk of encroachment from a lot of vector-borne diseases.”

The agency leading the disease research efforts is the Gorgas Institute. Founded in 1929, this world-renowned organization’s mission is to promote public health and contribute to research and teaching for the benefit of the population.

“The first thing that strikes me about Panamanians is that they are extremely organized, particularly the Gorgas Institute, which is a jewel,” said Air Force Lt. Col Mark Breidenbaugh, 346 EMDOS entomologist. “They have quality people and are funded at a level where they can do the work they need to do. They are doing cutting-edge molecular biology so they can recognize genetic material in their samples and therefore recognize exactly what kind of virus they are working with.”

Working With Panamanian Doctors

Getting the opportunity to work with Panamanian doctors can better equip U.S. doctors to recognize and react to various tropical diseases.

“Anytime you go overseas to a different culture, different language and a different way of doing things, it only increases readiness,” Yun said. “Because of the assets they have here, there is a lot of direct translatability between what we do in the U.S. We are always looking for ways to collaborate on research projects.”

Beyond just tropical diseases, creating bonds between the different specialties and organizations can aid in future research.

“I am thankful to come down here and do this because I believe in the global health interactions we are doing,” Breidenbaugh said. “In one sense, we are all diplomats. We are representing our country on an individual basis. I have already had requests from Panamanians to put them in touch with certain researchers I know.”

Face of Defense: Marine Saves Scuba Diver in Okinawa

By Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Neumann, III Marine Expeditionary Force

OKINAWA, Japan -- An expert Marine Corps diver came to the rescue of a Hong Kong woman who was scuba diving on her honeymoon here, May 20.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Scott Dahn was practicing rescue diving at Maeda Point when he saw the woman, Ching-Yi Sze, start to panic.

Dahn, who hails from Herron, Michigan, recalls the incident.

“The female ripped her mask off and looked like she might have been panicking, but I thought maybe they were doing some training, so I kept an eye on it,” said Dahn, the training chief for 3rd Maintenance Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “They put her mask back on, and then I saw her rip out her regulator. That concerned me."

The woman’s companions replaced her regulator, but then, “she ripped off both mask and regulator and that’s when I hurried up and swam over there,” Dahn said.

“I was probably about 30 feet from them,” he continued. “Once I got over there, I put the regulator back in her mouth, and they already had put the mask back on. She spit the regulator out and closed her mouth."

Dahn said he put the regulator back into the woman’s mouth and held it there.h

“I grabbed her arm,” he said, “and I signaled to the dive leader that we needed to go up."

Dahn said the group ascended to the surface slowly so no one would get decompression sickness.

‘She Was Pale, Her Lips Were Blue’

“Once we reached the surface, I grabbed her low pressure inflator hose and put some air in her buoyancy control device so she would float,” he said. “She was pale, her lips were blue, Her eyes were rolled in the back of her head. She was foaming from the mouth. And, she was unresponsive.”

The stricken woman was barely breathing, Dahn said.

“So, I proceeded to tow her into shore.” he said. “At that point, I thought she might die.”

After getting Ching-Yi ashore, Dahn said he carried her on his shoulder up a few flights of stairs. He laid her on her side to prevent choking and removed her gear to calm her. He stayed next to her while his wife, April, contacted emergency services. Meanwhile, he helped the distressed diver breathe through an oxygen tank.

“She was getting better, which was a good feeling, because when we first took her out of the water we were not sure if she was going to make it,” Dahn said.

Dahn said he stayed by Ching-Yi’s side until the paramedics came. After a short hospital stay, she made a full recovery. A couple days later, she called Dahn to say she wanted to return to Okinawa to thank him.

“I don’t know if my husband could find another girl like me,” Ching-Yi said jokingly.  “I can’t express how grateful I am for Scott (Dahn).”

“I was not surprised at all of [Dahn’s] actions,” said Marine Corps Capt. Taylor Davis, the executive officer for 3rd Maintenance Battalion. "He is a true professional. Dahn is a thoughtful and proactive Marine. His consistent desire to develop his Marines had already earned him the respect of his leaders.”

Dahn said he heard his unit plans to give him an award. Yet, he said he already received the lasting reward of a new friend.