USS PELELIU, at sea – The
Philippine segment of Pacific Partnership on USS Peleliu (LHA 5) was
completed July 7 with the help of some unlikely “Sailors.”
Air Force medical professionals joined the four-month humanitarian
mission and according to them, have adjusted well to their new
nautical working environment.
"It's very rare for Air Force people to work on ships, as most of our
joint operations are on shore," said Air Force Capt. Jerome Crawford,
an operating room nurse from Misawa Air Base. "There are a lot of
jealous coworkers back home. This is a coveted assignment."
Crawford's job aboard Peleliu involves many of the same things he does
He ensures the operating room (OR) is ready for surgery, takes care of
the patients, and generally facilitates events inside the OR.
But one thing he's learning aboard ship is that he doesn't have the
same amount of resources available to shore-side medical personnel.
"When you're out here in the ocean without the ability to simply drive
down to the next hospital, you've got to manage your tools and
resources (more efficiently)," said Crawford. "That is one difference
we've had to adapt to here."
Crawford is joined by seven other Air Force officers and six enlisted,
ranks E-4 to O-4.
One of those officers, Capt. James Pfeiffer, a certified registered
nurse anesthetist, is responsible for prescreening patients in the
areas the ship is currently operating in the Philippines.
"I see who needs surgery, and who we're able to transport to the ship
to receive that care," said Pfeiffer, whose permanent station is
Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. "It's very rewarding, especially
when you go out and you see giant signs saying, 'thanks.'"
The cases Pfieffer and the other Air Force medical professionals have
helped with involve routine procedures to more advanced, life-changing
Those surgeries, such as cleft lip and palate operations, permanently
alter the patient's appearance, and are some of the more rewarding
results for both patients and the medical staff.
Pfieffer said, "Some of these patients stay on the ship a few days
(recuperating from surgery), so we've seen a lot of people whose body
image has changed very much for the better. The patients say they're
Air Force personnel are making their contributions felt outside of an
OR as well.
Tech. Sgt. Rayno Boivin, of the 36th Medical Operations Squadron, is
giving the gift of better sight to the Filipino patients he sees.
As one of two optometrist technicians aboard, Boivin has deployed to
every medical civic action program since the ship began operations
near Legaspi, in the Bicol region of the Philippines.
This is Boivin's fifth humanitarian mission, and like Crawford and
Pfieffer, everything before Pacific Partnership was on shore.
"I've helped people in Granada, Surinam, Peru, and Honduras, and what
I did there is very similar to what I'm doing now," said Boivin. "Most
of the people are extremely pleased here from the free eye exams and
glasses we provide them."
According to Boivin, the joy these patients express stems from good
communication of their needs and the treatment the care providers
Regional volunteer translators help bridge the language gap that might
make the Air Force and other volunteers unable to help patients, some
of whom stand in line under the scorching tropical sun for hours
waiting for their chance to be seen.
Boivin noted that the assistance the local translators provide his
team has proven invaluable.
"Without our translators, some of these people would not be helped.
It's a simple matter of knowing exactly what the patient is saying as
opposed to guessing from body language and hand gestures," said Boivin.
"The translators greatly speed up our treatment of each case, which
means that we can help many more people per day than we could without
Boivin said that he's noticed many of the translators eager to return
to learn more about how to help their people get the medical help they
A similar observation can also be made of the USS Peleliu's newest
“Sailors”...the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.