A captain from Misawa Air Base, Japan, is among a select group of Air Force medical professionals spending four months in an unlikely place: aboard a ship.

Jerome Crawford, an operating room nurse, is part of the Pacific Partnership humanitarian mission on the USS Peleliu, which completed a visit to the Philippines last week. A multipurpose amphibious ship, the Peleliu departed San Diego on May 23 to bring medical, dental, construction and other assistance to countries in the Western Pacific region.

Crawford is joined by seven other Air Force officers and six enlisted, ranks E-4 to O-4, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release. He’s apparently relishing the switch from land to sea.

“It’s very rare for Air Force people to work on ships, as most of our joint operations are on shore,” Crawford was quoted as saying in the release. “There are a lot of jealous co-workers back home. This is a coveted assignment.”

Crawford’s job aboard Peleliu involves many of the same things he does ashore, such as preparing the operating room for surgery, taking care of patients and facilitating events inside the OR.

But one thing he’s learning aboard the ship is that he doesn’t have the same amount of resources available to shoreside 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],” Crawford was quoted saying. “That is one difference we’ve had to adapt to.”

The cases the Air Force medical professionals have helped with involve routine procedures to more advanced, life-changing surgeries, from free eye exams to cleft-lip and palate operations.

In the Philippines, Tech. Sgt. Rayno Boivin of the 36th Medical Operations Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, gave the gift of better sight to patients, according to the Navy.

As one of two optometrist technicians aboard, Boivin deployed to every medical civic action program in the Philippines, starting with the first mission near Legaspi, in the country’s Bicol region.

This is Boivin’s fifth humanitarian mission — and his first at sea.

“I’ve helped people in Granada, Suriname, Peru and Honduras, and what I did there is very similar to what I’m doing now,” he was quoted as saying. “Most of the people are extremely pleased here from the free eye exams and glasses we provide them.”

The Pacific Partnership mission brings together volunteers and professionals including host-nation and partner-nation medical personnel; nongovernmental organizations; U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force health-care providers; and construction battalion personnel. The mission is expected to end in mid-September.

Project Handclasp helps the needy in Philippines

Capt. Bruce Stewart, Pacific Partnership mission commander, and Kristie A. Kenney, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, handed off 11 pallets of relief supplies to a local nongovernment organization Tuesday at Cotabato Airport, according to a 7th Fleet press release.

The pallets were delivered as part of Project Handclasp, a Navy-sponsored humanitarian project that brings donated toys, basic medical supplies, hygiene products, sewing machines and food to those in need.

Since June 18, the San Diego-based USS Peleliu has ferried 80 pallets of essentials from the U.S. to the Philippines in support of Pacific Partnership 2007.

— Stars and Stripes

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