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Commander, U.S. Third Fleet Hosts RIMPAC Military Medicine Symposium

02 July 2014

From MC3 Pyoung K. Yi, USNS Mercy Public Affairs

Commander, U.S. Third Fleet (C3F) hosted the inaugural Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Military Medicine Symposium aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam July 1-2.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Commander, U.S. Third Fleet (C3F) hosted the inaugural Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Military Medicine Symposium aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam July 1-2.

The medicine symposium, organized by Canadian military medical officials, is one of numerous events taking place during the biennial RIMPAC, the world's largest international maritime exercise.

During the symposium, the Navy's Surgeon General and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, spoke about RIMPAC's ultimate objective and the international military medical community's role in it.

"RIMPAC engenders so many countries and so many different maritime organizations all working together for two things: one is to respond to crises in the world and the other is to break down barriers, get to know each other and create more security across the Pacific Rim and the entire world," Nathan said. "The fact that the medical response arena has gained prominence in RIMPAC means that when catastrophic issues happen in the Pacific Rim, be they natural or man-made, we can be all for one and one for all when responding."

The symposium provides a forum for the international military medical community to learn and share about the successes and lessons learned from the diverse experiences represented by RIMPAC's participating nations.

"It's an opportunity to exchange lessons learned from recent operations," said Canadian Army Lt. Col. Nicholas Withers, combined force maritime component commander (CFMCC) surgeon, the organizer of the symposium. "We want to make sure we optimize health outcomes for everybody involved."

More than 120 international medical officials representing 12 nations attended the first day of the symposium. Service members from Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Columbia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and South Korea were present.

The symposium provides an opportunity for the military medical community to network with their partner nations, so that in a real-world scenario, nations would be able to operate more efficiently and become more familiar with other countries' method of operations, said Withers.

"It's a big opportunity to be with different nations," Mexican Navy Ensign Tmas Bastida, doctor of medicine assigned to the ocean patrol vessel Armada Repblica Mexicano Revolucin (PO-164). "For us as medical officers, it's important to know how other countries operate in case we have to engage with other nations."

Due to the medical field constantly advancing, an additional goal of the symposium is for nations to share their newest medical practices.

"We're also looking to distribute the best practices in military medicine," said Withers. "Medicine is a very dynamic field, as such we're learning new things every day. We want to make sure we can capture those lessons we've learned and share them with our neighbors to ensure we're providing the best care."

Various symposium presentations were given by military medical personnel ranging from topics such as the deployment of hospital ships in disaster relief operations, to the management of legionella contaminated water aboard a Norwegian naval vessel.

"One of the highlights of the symposium was the address by our Chinese compatriots on their Peace Ark," said Withers. "They provided a wonderful brief on the capabilities of that ship. It's a unique insight into both their culture and the hospital ship itself."

This year's RIMPAC marks the first time in the exercises history that hospital ships have participated. The People's Liberation Army (Navy) hospital ship Peace Ark and Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) will hold medical subject matter expert exchanges while in Pearl Harbor as well as simulate disaster relief operations at sea.

Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, over 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

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