Two Reservists become "Pacific Angels" in Cambodia

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jake Chapplle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Unfortunately, some countries overseas don't have economies large enough to purchase the sufficient resources to provide their citizens with standard medical care.

This is why Col. Paul Abson, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, and Master Sgt. James Clements, 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, supported the Pacific Angel mission from May 20 to June 2 in Kampong Cham, Cambodia.

Pacific Angel is a humanitarian mission developed to bring medical, dental and optical assistance to Cambodia, said Sergeant Clements.

"The people were very patient, appreciative and wonderful," said Colonel Abson of his experience in Cambodia.

While in Cambodia, Colonel Abson primarily provided care to patients. He detected cancer in a few extreme cases and taught preventative techniques to the locals to help prevent common diseases.

"We set up medical and dental sections in a Buddhist temple, said Colonel Abson. "They were extremely accommodating and we were respectful to their culture. They understood the importance of the mission because it was for their people and the greater good."

An optometry section was set up to screen patients' vision.

"If there were glasses or simple medicine that could help the patient, we delivered it to them," said Sergeant Clements.

About 700 people were seen a day. Out of the total 2,272 patients who were seen, 1,761 received primary care, said Colonel Abson. 

Communication between the Americans and Cambodians wasn't an issue.

"Each of us had a host nation interpreter and mine was also an eye care employee at the Children's Surgical Center in Phnom Phen, Cambodia," said Sergeant Clements.

The translators spoke good English, said Colonel Abson. They served a dual purpose because they were also medical interns and residents. "They were quite pleased at how much we were able to teach to them about medicine."

According to Sergeant Clements, the mission also brought a heavy dose of reality.

"These missions are very difficult," said Sergeant Clements. "The jet lag and climate were difficult to adapt to. The high number of patients also made it tough to keep mentally sharp. It was heartbreaking to see some of the significant needs that presented themselves. It was draining to know that if the patients had been given significant health care, that most of the conditions could have been prevented."

According to Sergeant Clements, working with other Air Force units made his job easier and more fulfilling.

It was a test of the military machine to see how well everyone performed their jobs with new co-workers, said Sergeant Clements. Everyone was professional and functioned as a team.

"The seamless integration of all the Air Force components, Guard, Reserve and active duty, shows how effective the global reach of the Air Force is in accomplishing these missions," said Colonel Abson.