More than 4,300 patients received care and five schools obtained much needed upgrades as Operation Pacific Angel 14-3, a joint and combined humanitarian mission, closed July 25.
The Pacific Air Forces-led exercise consisted of three tiers -- a healthcare services outreach, subject matter expert exchanges and engineering civil action projects. Support came from all over the world - the United States, Australia, France, New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
"This has been a phenomenal event to see," said Brig. Gen. William Burks, the adjutant general for the state of Nevada. "Pacific Angel is designed to help whatever country they're actually visiting at the time and I'm very fortunate that this year it's the Kingdom of Tonga."
The healthcare services outreach program provided general care, optometry services, dental care, physical therapy and a pharmacy to residents of Vava'u and Ha'apai.
The subject matter expert exchanges created a venue for doctors, nurses and health officers to discuss diabetes mellitus management and go through basic life support refresher training.
Electricians, structural craftsmen, carpenters and plumbers spent more than 5,000 man hours to improve five schools on the island of Vava'u. They repaired and replaced doors, locks, windows, wiring, partitions, sinks, faucets, toilets and various additional requirements during the operation.
"Being able to come up here to Vava'u, to see not only the island but the people, and then just to see the tremendous work being done by the doctors behind me and all the volunteers, it just warms your heart," Burks said.
The Nevada National Guard and the Kingdom of Tonga marked the formation of the newest official relationship in the National Guard's State Partnership Program on April 11 with a formal signing ceremony in Tonga.
The State Partnership Program links a unique component of the Department of Defense -- a state's National Guard-- with the armed forces of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
The SPP was established in 1994 and, with the addition of the Nevada/Tonga partnership, now features 68 partnerships involving 74 nations around the world.
"Having your presence here has helped immensely so that I'm very grateful and I know that my people are very grateful as well," said Lord Fulivai, the governor of Vava'u. "To be honest, I believe these kind of outreach assistance programs not only for the region but around the world, are about working together."
PACANGEL takes place in locations throughout the Pacific theater to support the U.S. military charter of capacity building in partner nations.
The operations contain elements of all four branches of the Department of Defense, including active-duty, National Guard, and reserve members.
"I know that in our time of need you gentlemen will be here for us," Fulivai said.
PACAF has conducted previous PACANGEL events in Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Laos and Nepal.
"If we reach out to whatever country you are helping, especially U.S. forces and especially ours at this time of our need, it makes people remember -- not only ourselves as adults but also the children, the primary level, and it gives them a goal to something in the future," Fulivai said.
"It's really a world-class event coming together to help the people out here in Vava'u and some of the other neighboring islands here," Burks said. "It's one of those things that almost brings tears to your eyes when you see the good work they're doing."
PACANGEL-Tonga will help build on the budding relationship with the country and help improve future humanitarian missions.
"We'll take the lessons learned from here, apply them to the future so that we can come back to Tonga and actually increase the value of the partnership we have," Burks said.
Officially in its seventh year, PACANGEL supports U.S. Pacific Command's capacity-building efforts by partnering with other governments, non-governmental agencies and multilateral militaries in the respective region.
Since 2007, U.S. military members, together with host nation military and civilian personnel throughout the region, have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people through PACANGEL operations.