SULU SEA (NNS) -- A call for healing brought amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) Sailors and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Marines to the eastern beaches of Malaysia Aug. 29-30 to assist Malaysian civilian and military medical personnel in the 2014 Medical and Dental Civic Action Program.
The event (Med-Den CAP), part of the Malaysia, United States Amphibious Exercise, was a call to service answered by individuals dedicated to improving the health and well-being of others.
During the two-day Med-Den CAP mission, the teams treated more than 500 patients, providing short-term, solution-focused care.
Preparations the first day included setting up and staging equipment at a local gymnasium. This afforded the U.S. and Malaysian militaries and civilian care providers an opportunity to meet, plan and create a mini-clinic for treating patients. Later that day, a blood drive was held.
The second day was all about providing care, healing aliments and forging bonds.
"Having face-to-face time with anybody makes relationships stronger," said Lt. Jennifer Minkler, USS San Diego's dental officer. "By going out and doing missions like this we are showing that we are invested in their well-being."
The medical and dental teams focused on providing definitive treatments and small procedures that required minimal follow up, such as tooth extractions and antibiotic treatments.
"Treating things such as diabetes and high blood pressure wasn't feasible for us because we were only there for a short time," said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Bartle, the senior medical officer aboard San Diego. "So we try to integrate the patients with local physicians and clinics so that they could follow up with them."
The U.S. military care providers shared everything from spaces and resources to techniques and technologies with their Malaysian counterparts.
Bartle expressed the desire for junior Sailors and Marines to have gainful experiences with treating people in new and unfamiliar environments. He believed the Med-Den CAP proved to be one of those experiences.
"There are a lot of things that come out of the woodworks when doing these missions," said Bartle. "Getting [the Sailors and Marines] exposed to things like Med-Den CAP is meaningful and impactful, especially if they are deciding to go into a medical career."
The affirmation of investment was evident in first time participant, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Elizabeth Kirkner, assigned to the 11th MEU.
"This is actually a part of why I joined the Navy, so it was really rewarding to know that we were able to take care of them," said Kirkner. "A lot of the things we saw are not something that we would normally see working with military personnel, so it was really eye-opening."
Additionally, San Diego leaders said missions such as Med-Den CAP would help strengthen international relationships and add depth to future collaborative endeavors.
"Just learning people's names at the young officer and enlisted level, down the road when they are senior, may help forge relationships between the two nations for a lasting effect," said Capt. John Menoni, commanding officer of San Diego.
"It's kind of an extension of what we already do in the military," said Bartle. "It's a show of good faith and good will. The ties that we've made with the Malaysians and allowing them the see what we can do as a military [aside from] going in as a force, I think is going to last for a long time."
The event wrapped up just as Malaysia was set to celebrate its independence day Aug. 31.
San Diego is currently on her maiden deployment with the 11th MEU as a part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing deterrence, humanitarian aid and disaster response while supporting the Navy's maritime strategy in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.