Our military: Unheralded improvers of society

In a previous post, in recognition of National Military Month, it was discussed how our military had improved as first defenders of America’s freedoms. This post focuses on how the military, while assuring our national security, has also in unheralded fashion improved civilian society, enhancing daily lives of people and their surroundings, in health and conservation, both here and around the world.

After World War II it became apparent that American troops would be stationed throughout the globe, including tropical climes, for extended periods of time. The Army, in particular, recognized the significant toll that tropical diseases inflicted on uninnoculated American soldiers, sailors, and fliers in the Pacific Theater. As a result, the military, led by the Army, engaged a long-term research effort to develop as many vaccines for infectious diseases as possible. Fifty years later, the fruits of such efforts are shared by all —over 50 percent of the vaccines in common use in the U.S. and throughout the world have been developed by the Army’s medical research. Moreover, the military has established the Integrated (Services) Pest Management Board, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, which includes medical research experts from all three services. The Board has also established best online library for insect-borne diseases, available free of charge to the public 24/7. Most users are civilians outside North America.

After the December 2004 tsunami, in which the U.S. Navy played a leading role in emergency response activities in Southeast Asia, the Navy became more aware of the international goodwill it created by such humanitarian efforts. Rather than wait for disaster to strike, the Navy since 2005 has launched extended annual tours of duty for the USNS Mercy as part of its ongoing Pacific Partnership mission. According to a May 21, 2010, media account from the American Forces Press Service, for five months, the Mercy will provided assistance ashore including engineering projects, medical and dental care, participating in subject-matter-expert changes, and conducting programs to provide humanitarian and civic assistance to Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Palau and Papua New Guinea. Mercy’s commodore, Capt. Lisa Franchetti, commented that there are eight partner nations, six host nations, and 17 NGOs that will send a total of over 700 volunteers.

The Navy sponsored a similar medical goodwill hospital ship several years ago to Central and South America (and more recently in response to this winter’s Haitian earthquake), where tens of thousands of local inhabitants received free, needed medical care.