Seven members from the Joint Communications Support Element, a subordinate command of the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, returned home Sept. 14, following a four-month deployment in support of Pacific Partnership 2012, a humanitarian assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific region. The JCSE team was requested to join this mission, which focused on building stronger relationships and response capabilities between partner nations, non-government organizations and international agencies to provide critical ship-to-shore communications.
Communication is essential for any complex undertaking and PP12 was no different. JCSE’s ability to rapidly deploy to any location and effectively set up and operate their advanced communications packages made the JCSE team from the 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron, a Georgia National Guard unit aligned with JCSE, a good fit for this mission.
While travelling onboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), the joint communicators provided essential communications expertise to the medical, surgical, dental, veterinarian and engineering teams from PP12 at each destination along the way. The team deployed with three Initial Entry Packages, which can provide communication services for up to eight users, and supported numerous sites during scheduled port visits to four countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. The PP12 teams completed community projects to improve facilities, and also performed numerous procedures for residents of the local community.
The joint communicators moved with the PP12 teams from one site to the next in teams of two, while simultaneously meeting the communication needs at each port call. The JCSE personnel worked closely with the officer-in-charge and assistant-officer-in-charge at each site and served as the main points of contact for each PP12 team reporting back to the Mercy.
Air Force Senior Airman Christopher McNair, a JCSE member, explained how the team’s level of experience provided flexibility as they adapted to different challenges.
“We used the Initial Entry Packages to quickly provide expeditious communication to and from the Medical Civil Action Project teams to pass information on accountability, patient conditions, types of patients, as well as patient confidentiality,” said McNair. “With only two week intervals [at each site], we understood the limited time frame and we adjusted our techniques accordingly.”
JCSE’s critical communications capabilities ensured the MEDCAP teams on site could contact additional teams onboard the Mercy in a timely manner for emergency situations and for critical care patients. This immediate response capability was crucial in effectively selecting and coordinating which patients needed additional care that the local medical facilities may not have been equipped to provide.
“The support we provided aided in the promptness of information about patient well-being, especially if a patient needed to travel to the ship for further evaluation or immediate medical attention,” said McNair.
Another JCSE team member, Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles Grant, concurred with McNair and elaborated on one such experience during the deployment.
“I witnessed one incident where a child was in serious need of medical attention. We worked with the medical team on the ship and pier to provide assistance to get the child immediately on the ship for surgery,” said Grant, “Following the successful surgery, the mother’s joy brought tears to everyone’s eyes. I’ll never forget that moment.”
Another JCSE team member, Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheldon High, explained how this unique deployment further validated JCSE’s expedient ability to provide the necessary communications support to remote locations and was a reassuring test of his skills.
“While deployed for Pacific Partnership 2012, we had to be flexible because each mission was for a different customer, at a different location and had different communication needs,” said High. “This [deployment] gave me even more confidence in my ability to provide top-notch communication services to a variety of customers anytime, anywhere.”
This seven-man JCSE team served a vital role in relaying information to and from the ship and their experience assisted the PP12 teams in exceeding mission expectations. Their unprecedented level of professionalism and communications expertise ensured operations ran smoothly and effectively assisted the combined efforts of the PP12 teams they supported. PP12 was a remarkable experience for these highly trained joint communication experts, whose support greatly contributed to the success of the overall mission.
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