TERNATE, Republic of the Philippines (March 10, 2010) – --
Members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and servicemembers assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted a three-day medical and dental civil action projects (MEDCAP/DENCAP) at Dinglas Elementary, Ternate Central Elementary and San Juan Elementary School in the province of Cavite, March 8 - 10.
The projects were part of exercise Balikatan 2010 (BK’ 10) which included four Navy doctors, four Marines and 16 Navy hospital corpsmen assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion-31 (CLB-31), MEU, with the health services support team.
Doctors from both countries worked together side-by-side and provide medical and dental services to more than 1500 local residents.
“Going into remote areas to provide medical treatment and alleviate suffering from the lives of people demonstrates our partnership with the Filipino government better than anything else,” said Lt. Randy Gire, CLB-31 officer in charge of the mission.
Medical and dental services ranged from handing out vitamin supplements, treating minor medical ailments to extracting teeth. However, for some of the Filipino servicemembers serving in the U.S. forces, this was an opportunity to return to their birth country and make a difference.
“I feel like we are giving some of these kids a chance at life,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Castillo, who was born in Manila until he was six-years old. “The work we do here demonstrates the close alliance our two countries have had for decades and strengthens it even further.”
One service new to this year’s MEDCAP was provided by AFP doctors; circumcision. Many residents took advantage of the service, as it is considered a significant cultural right of passage for Filipino boys.
“I was glad to get this operation for my son here today, or else he might not have gotten it at all,” said Jsheld Mojica, a Ternate resident who brought her son to the MEDCAP specifically for a circumcision.
Mojica added that many families in the province cannot afford the procedure on their own due to high medical cost, but thanks to medical aid projects such as these they are able to get their sons the procedure free of charge.
The 31st MEU and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group are participating in exercise Balikatan 2010, an annual, bilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability between the U.S. and Republic of the Philippines.