FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii –
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 1984th United States Army Hospital Detachment returned from their mission to the country of Palau, where they provided medical coverage, as a part of Exercise Forager. The Soldiers provided support in a variety of ways, from COVID track and tracing, to reinforcing the use of hand sanitizer, sunscreen, rehydration salts to keep Soldiers mission ready.
“During lulls, we were able to meet with the locals and build relationships by visiting with the local clinic and meeting with the providers on the island,” said U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Joseph Bjelland, “we assisted in support of the activity duty medic. In the absence of their preventative med (July 20, 2021), we gave a safety brief regarding the condition of the drinking water, weather and local wildlife.”
Exercise Forager is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) exercise designed to test and refine the Theater Army’s ability to flow landpower forces into the theater, execute command and control of those forces, and effectively employ them in support of our allies, partners, and national security objectives in the region. The 1984th aided in this effort by helping to support and educate the Soldiers who were not from the island, of the environmental factors that could affect their health.
“The MP (Military Police) unit from Guam, understood the importance of bug-spray, sunblock and hydration,” Bjelland stated, “however, when working with active duty, they were not aware of the severity of sun exposure being so close to the equator.”
“By educating and advocating the use of sunblock, we were able to reduce the amount of Soldiers who were negatively affected by the environment,” Bjelland shared.
In addition to being able to provide medical support to the units at Exercise Forager and ensuring the continuous assessment of Soldiers' health in order to help improve their ability to sustain the fighting force, the 1984th also engaged in the community on island.
“We were able to speak with the children, visit the clinic, and meet the doctors,” Bjelland said. “It gave us an idea of the island's capabilities as well as its limitations, providing us the knowledge to plan for future missions accordingly.”
By the end of the mission in Palau, some Soldiers were left with a lasting impact from their experience and their time there.
“(Exercise) Forager was by far the best exercise I attended in my 20 years of military service,” U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Jacqueline Gerrish said. “The community was welcoming and the active duty and reserves that oversaw our transportation and resources was exceptional.”
“The camaraderie between various units, and multiple branches of service was inspirational,” Gerrish said.
For a lot of Soldiers, Exercise Forager is much more than just another mission or training; it's also a homecoming. The 368th Military Police Company is based out of Guam.
“Being Palauan, born in Guam, being here in Palau has been a great experience, especially meeting the locals,” said the sole medic for the 368th, Pfc. Lazarus Mabel, “The opportunity of working with senior medics in my first mission helped me a lot and I learned to be a better medic.”
“I still have family in Palau, and the last time I was here was in 2014. It is awesome to be back,” said Staff Sgt. Leiholani Serencio, the noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) for the 368th MP CO, “It was great to interact with the locals and converse with the local Angaur kids. Kira, a 12-year-old girl, wants to join the Army because she sees us.”
“As a company from Guam, we have a sense of family bond, and everyone has your back. This mission has solidified our bond,” said Spc. Daniel Bascon.