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NEWS | Feb. 1, 2017

NHCC corpsmen have global impact

By Kris Patterson Naval Health Clinic Charleston Public Affairs

Sailors assigned to Naval Health Clinic Charleston here are trained and ready to provide world-class care anywhere, any time.


Although these Sailors provide medical services to active-duty service members, family members and veterans in a state-of-the art military treatment facility year round, every year, individual Sailors from NHCC also volunteer to serve with joint task forces during peace-time missions around the globe.


“It’s a small, yet meaningful way we can give back,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Anton Jordan, a machinist’s mate and purchasing agent for NHCC.

Jordan joined the crew of U.S. Naval Ship Mercy (T-AH-19) in April, 2016, for a five-month deployment to Southeast Asia in support of Pacific Partnership 2016.


USNS Mercy is a hospital on water, where staff provides inpatient and outpatient medical care for host nation citizens. When in port, Pacific Partnership personnel work alongside their counterparts from partnering countries to share knowledge and best practices in disaster response preparedness, humanitarian assistance, medical care and civil-engineering.


As a machinist’s mate, Jordan worked on a team providing oxygen for patients during surgeries and ensuring all of the ship’s fixtures and plumbing, such as showers and toilets, functioned properly throughout the deployment.


Jordan, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, volunteered to participate in community relations events in Timor Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.


“When the ship pulls into port, hundreds of local citizens are waiting for care,” said Jordan. “It feels great to be able to help these people and to show them Americans do care. In turn, they appreciate our help and seem to really enjoy our company.”


Petty Officer 1st Class Vanessa Poland, a hospital corpsman, experienced appreciation from citizens of partnering nations first hand while deployed for five months aboard USNS Spearhead (T-EPF-1). “The locals were so welcoming,” said Poland. “We were treated like celebrities.”

Poland provided medical support for U.S. military and civilian personnel participating in Africa Partnership Station, an international initiative to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.

While deployed on USNS Spearhead, the Carrollton, Texas native traveled to Cameroon, Ghana, Gabon and Senegal.

The most surprising and inspiring observation Poland  made while visiting each area, she said, was that even though many of the locals she met lacked the resources we have in the United States, all of them were happy.

"We get this idea that these people are unhappy in their conditions, considering they don’t have some of the things we take for granted, like clean water, or infrastructure,” said Poland. “But they’re very appreciative for what they do have and they’re happy.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Salazar, another NHCC hospital corpsman who deployed in early fall with Destroyer Squadron 40, participating in Southern Partnership 2016, said his recent deployment afforded him a lesson in gratitude.


“It was hard seeing everyone with practically nothing and trying to accept that as the norm,” said Salazar. “It made me grateful for what I have and it inspired me to do more to help.”


Salazar provided medical support for U.S. Navy Seabees who worked alongside partner nation engineers in El Salvador and Colombia who were building and renovating community and personal hygiene centers. His duties included ensuring personnel wore safety equipment and stayed hydrated while working in triple-digit temperatures. Additionally he treated any physical injuries. When he wasn’t working in a medical capacity, he assisted in construction.


While Salazar and fellow U.S. service members were not permitted to venture out into the mainland during certain parts of the deployment, they were able to meet locals in the areas surrounding their work sites. Some were living in homes made of scrap materials with dirt floors. Salazar said helping improve the conditions in these communities was one of the most gratifying aspects of deploying.


“It’s rewarding knowing you’re trying to improve their way of life,” said Salazar. “You’re giving them something we have total access to in the U.S. Sometimes we take for granted air conditioning, sinks and showers, toilets that flush and a sewage system.”


Salazar said he was moved by the pride of the locals and their leadership who, when the projects were complete, devised ways to protect and secure the newly built or refurbished facilities. They also brainstormed ways to put the structures to good use for their communities.


The biggest challenge of the deployment, said Salazar, was being so far away from his loved ones back home.


“Leaving family for any amount of time is never easy but the duration of this particular deployment and the reason we were going didn’t make it too hard,” said Salazar.


Sometimes, shorter deployments are the most profound in a service member’s career, said Chief Petty Officer William Neason, an independent duty corpsman and leading chief petty officer for NHCC Medical Home Port.


This past fall, Neason, a native of Edna, Texas, deployed more than 9,000 miles to Vietnam with a team to recover the remains of Prisoner’s of War and locate those Missing in Action  from the Vietnam War.

The team’s secondary mission was to assist in the excavation of an A-6 Intruder crash site under the direction of an archeologist searching for the remains of the pilot and co-pilot. Although the pilot and co-pilot were never found, remains of a U.S. Soldier were recovered by another team. After attending a repatriation ceremony for the Soldier who had been MIA for more than 30 years, Neason said he was humbled by the experience.

“I felt honored to be a part of it,” said Neason. “We were able to give closure to a family who had waited so long to learn the fate of their loved one. It was surreal knowing after all this time; this Soldier was finally going home to be laid to rest.”

Throughout his 20-year career, Neason has rendered emergency medical treatments, assisted in the prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries, cared for the sick and injured, performed preliminary physical examinations and provided and taught first aid.

He said he knows every time he deploys, there are positives and negatives, regardless of the location, but he also knows the job he performs can be lifesaving … and life changing.

“I just enjoy the opportunity to travel and experience something I will most likely never experience again,” said Neason.