Smith in the Philippines

Smith in the Philippines

Zach Smith, MHSA '09, a medical planner for the U.S. Navy, who's currently assigned to a Marine Corps unit in Okinawa, took these photos of a recent training exercise in the Philippine province of Pampanga. Conducted jointly by U.S. and Philippine troops, the event—called Exercise Balikatan, meaning "Shoulder to Shoulder" in Tagolog—is an annual occurrence, but this year's version was special. It marked the first time during Exercise Balikatan that the U.S. Marine Corps had deployed its new Forward Resuscitative Surgical System (FRSS), a medical care unit that provides general surgery in combat environments.

As a medical planner for the unit, Smith determines how medical forces and resources— including medics, surgeons, anesthesiologists, physicians' assistants, and nurses—will be used in a variety of situations. In addition to military training exercises, Smith's job puts him in touch with local residents through the Navy's medical civic-action programs, or MEDCAPs, which bring free high-quality health care to people throughout the Asia-Pacific region. He and his unit also help out with humanitarian missions in the wake of disasters such as typhoons or earthquakes.

Getting to know and assist people in the region is one of the best parts of his deployment, Smith says.

"I just like seeing the smiles on people's faces. They come in with some sort of condition which they might never have had the opportunity to get looked at by a local doctor, and we're able to treat them. I feel like I'm an ambassador for the U.S." <