Filipino, American forces hold virtual Global Health Engagement

CAMP AGUINALDO, QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Medical experts from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) concluded the three-day virtual Global Health Engagement on Wednesday, as part of the ongoing Balikatan Exercise.

The knowledge exchange and key leader engagement which started on April 12 was held virtually for the first time due to conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The global pandemic may have limited some aspects of the Balikatan Exercise but it will never dampen the spirit of friendship, partnership, and shared aspirations of both Philippines and United States armed forces,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, Commander of AFP Education Training and Doctrine Command and Exercise Director of Balikatan 2021.

The Chief Surgeon of PAF, Colonel Maria Socorro Posadas spearheaded topics in aviation medicine. Among which were The Role of AFP in Pandemic Management; Philippines’ COVID-19 Vaccination Plan; and Aerospace Medicine Guidelines, Aeromedical Evacuation Medical Equipment and Facility Modification, and Mass Casualty Response during pandemic.

“Engagement such as this had been carried out regularly between the Office of the Chief Surgeon Air Force and PACAF to produce meaningful exchanges of medical knowledge and practices in the field of Aerospace Medicine. In this Balikatan 2021 virtual teleconference, both parties were able to showcase their experience and expertise in their respective fields as well as to highlight the improvements and innovations they instituted to fulfil their mission through this pandemic,” Colonel Posadas said.

The PACAF Command Surgeon, Colonel Rudy Cachuela and international health specialist Lieutenant Colonel Cherielynne Gabriel joined the virtual activity from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel said the main objective of the exchange is to provide an overview of the present pandemic situation from surveillance, on-scene response, testing and monitoring to patient treatment and modifications to patient movement.

“It aims to share best practices, enhance knowledge of participants, and maintain relationships until we can practice medical interoperability in-person again when global health conditions improve,” she said.

The 36th iteration of the Balikatan Exercise kicked off April 12 and will conclude on April 23. It is an annual military training event which highlights the Philippines and United States militaries’ continued commitment to train and share information to improve their ability to coordinate a multilateral response to crisis.

“The longstanding exercise continues amidst the global pandemic to manifest our unequivocal commitment to maintain national and regional peace and security, and preparedness to respond to health emergencies,” said Major General Arevalo.

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