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United States Gives Military Hospital to Indonesia

By Cpl. Jeremy Vought, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

JAKARTA, Indonesia, Jan. 24, 2006 – In a large step toward normalizing military relationships with Indonesia as well as providing much-needed humanitarian assistance, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia handed over $11 million dollars worth of medical equipment to the country's minister of defense in a ceremony here Jan. 20th.

"We're pleased with being able to do this," Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe said. "We think that it gets to the kind of humanitarian work that both of our militaries have shown themselves so capable of doing and that we did so successfully (after the tsunami) a year ago and that we want to continue doing in the future."

The donated medical equipment, enough to build a fully functional mobile hospital, was excess gear in the U.S. military's inventory.

"We are partnering with Indonesia," Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Dowd, director of logistics at U.S. Pacific Command, said. "They have this requirement for this hospital gear and, instead of turning it into the U.S. as excess material, this was a great opportunity to move it over here to Indonesia and show our partnership as we redevelop our relationships."

During the December 2004 tsunami that ravished the county's coastal providences, U.S. and Indonesian military medical planners developed ways to provide sustaining long-term medical care while increasing the disaster-relief capabilities of the Indonesian military.

"One of the things that came out of that cooperation was an understanding that ... there were going to be other problems at various times and one of the thing we needed to do was to work together on that kind of capacity," Pascoe said. "The minister and I have had many discussions about the direction he wants things to go, and he has talked about building capacity on disaster relief and being able to take care of things."

In February 2005, during relief operations, members of Pacific Command in Hawaii identified excess medical equipment at a Navy fleet hospital on Okinawa, Japan. Coordination began among Office of Defense Cooperation in Jakarta, the Indonesian military, PACOM staff, and the Navy to transfer the gear to the Humanitarian Assistance Program Excess Property program. Under this program, property deemed excess could be donated to other countries vice being put into military storage for contingency operations.

The equipment, shipped in 106 military containers, consists of operating rooms, laboratories, intensive care beds, x-ray units, a dental surgery unit, refrigerated blood banks, microscopes, suction pumps, pulse meters, and more.

In the wake of the tsunami, the U.S. military came to provide immediate emergency relief to the battered region with the help of the USNS Mercy, a huge floating hospital. This donation of medical equipment will continue what the Mercy started a year ago, Dowd explained.

This equipment will be used by the Indonesians to meet their needs, he said. "They have explained that they are going to break it out into 57 different places throughout Indonesia for medical support," he said.

"This is a very significant contribution," Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said. "These kinds of assistance are very much needed by those afflicted by disasters, health care primarily," he said.

In Indonesia, the military provides many basic and emergency medical needs. But after the tsunami, much of that infrastructure was destroyed.

"An important aspect of our defense program is to empower our military battalions with capabilities in medical assistance, both for the military itself as well as for the people that the military has been instrumental in helping in disaster-prone areas, both natural disasters as well as man-made disasters," Sudarsono said.

The United States and Indonesia are the third and fourth largest countries in the world, and Pascoe explained that is exactly why the two countries should be strengthening ties both diplomatically and militarily. In November, the U.S. State Department moved to normalize military to military relations with Indonesia, after six years of restricted engagement because of human-rights violations in East Timor.

"Our two presidents said last May in Washington that they wanted a normal military relationship between out two countries. We have been working steadily towards that goal, and since that time major steps were taken," Pascoe said. "We see this as very much part of that kind of close working relationship that we would like to do, a very normal relationship."

(Marine Cpl. Jeremy Vought is assigned to the Hawaii Bureau of Air Force News Agency.)

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