A U.nited States. Air Force medical and dental team and members of the Royal Thai Air Force participated in a humanitarian mission at Thairat 72 School in Udon Thani on Feb. 6, 2007. This was the second civil-action project and the first in northern Thailand conducted during exercise Cope Tiger 2007. Cope Tiger is one of the annual joint Thai-US exercises that are usually referred to as "war games" but in reality are joint training missions and humanitarian assistance.
According to Royal Thai Air Force Capt. Mathin Piyaamornmatha, the people here have no chance to receive medicine because they are in the country far from the city and they have no money. "Today they see that the U.S. is friendly, and they have a chance to have medicine," said Captain Piyaamornmatha.
Not only did the students and local community members get medicine, they were treated to foot massages, hair cuts, a concert by members of the Royal Thai Air Force's 23rd Wing and a demonstration of tarkaw (a cross between volleyball and soccer). Amid all the festivities, the medical teams from U.S. Air Force units in Japan performed dental and eye exams.
"We get a chance to take a small child out of pain, which gives them a chance to concentrate on learning," said Capt. Alan Neal of the 35th Dental Squadron at Misawa Air Base Japan. Captain Neal said this event is more than just pulling teeth or checking eyesight; it is a two-way street of sharing. "It is about building a relationship of trust," Captain Neal said. "This is a chance for the Thais to get a firsthand experience as to what type of people make up the American military," said Senior Airman Joseph Reed, a satellite technician with the 18th Communications Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan. "Hopefully, they will know that people from other parts of the world care about them and their future.
" "Who knows? Our visit might inspire them to become dentists or expand their education," added Captain Neal. "This was an eye-opening experience," said Senior Airman Hilary Easkin, a dental assistant from the 35th Dental Squadron at Misawa AB. "I came away with an appreciation for our job and our ability to help these people. They were very appreciative of our help and we were grateful for their hospitality and the chance to help them." Lt. Col.
Michael Akiona, the 13th Air Expeditionary Group commander and KC-135 detachment commander, noted that the gifts given to the school are tokens of friendship between Thailand and the United States. "We look forward to Cope Tiger to renew our friendship," he said. If you have ever participated in a goodwill mission like this, then you know that you come away feeling better than the patients that you treated.
Larry Westfall is a frequent traveler to Thailand visiting 2 to 3 times per year and owner of Hotel in Pattaya
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