The final Pacific Angel Exercise for 2019 has concluded with a closing ceremony to highlight the successful program that will leave the local community in Lae, Papua New Guinea, healthier and stronger.

The Royal Australian Air Force, alongside other partner nations, the United States Air Force (USAF), Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) and Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), provided free medical check-ups, dental, physiotherapy, optometry and infectious disease treatment, as well as refurbishing four schools with local contractors and subject-matter expert exchanges.

PNGDF Chief of Staff, Captain Philip Polewara, extended his gratitude to participating nations, volunteers and the local PNG community for their contributions during Pacific Angel.

“Our Defence Force is small, but our people serve it proudly; having the opportunity to work alongside and learn from our United States and Australian partners was very special,” Captain Polewara said.

“We look forward to more frequent visits and a continued relationship with our friends and partners.”

“We have seen lessons learned, exchanges between medical professionals and a deeper understanding of each other’s capabilities.”

Officer in Charge Australian Contingent and Environmental Health Officer, Squadron Leader Evelyn Wright, said the strong relationship with PNG was important to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our countries work together on several issues including improving transparency and good governance, combating human trafficking, protecting fisheries, improving public health and promoting gender equality,” Squadron Leader Wright said.

“Pacific Angel specifically helps the local government and international aid agencies establish important relationships to increase response abilities during a crisis.

“I’m so proud of our people, together with the United States and PNGDF medical teams, who treated more than 3861 cases over five days at the medical ‘pop up’ clinic at Bowali Primary School.

“We will return to Australia with wonderful memories and fuller hearts knowing we have helped the community with free health services, improved school facilities, and additional medical supplies and equipment for the local hospital.”

United States Pacific Air Forces, Colonel Darryl Insley, said Pacific Angel represented a physical and tangible partnership within the region to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region. 

“We have seen lessons learned, exchanges between medical professionals and a deeper understanding of each other’s capabilities, all while improving the health and comfort of the citizens,” Colonel Insley said.

“On behalf of the United States Air Force, thank you to the joint team from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Republic of Fiji Military Forces for the incredible amount of work that goes into planning and executing an operation on this scale.”

The Australian Defence Force is committed to further enhance Australia’s regional defence engagement and continue to expand defence cooperation in aviation, maritime, infrastructure and capability development.