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Photo Information

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Evelyn Palm (right), an Environmental Health Officer assigned to the combined Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES) and Marine Forces South (MARFORSOUTH) Health Service Support Staff poses for a photo. Palm recently graduated from the Marine Corps Civil Affairs Course. She is the first Navy Global Health Engagement (GHE)/Force Health Protection Officer to complete the course. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Evelyn Palm)

Photo by Cpl. James Stanfield

MARFORRES/MARFORSOUTH Environmental Health Officer Completes USMC Civil Affairs Course

4 Nov 2022 | Cpl. James Stanfield U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

A Marine Forces Reserve/Marine Forces South Navy officer recently expanded her Fleet Marine Forces credentials by completing a critical Marine Corps expeditionary course.

Lt. Cmdr. Evelyn Palm, an environmental health officer attached to the commands’ combined Health Service Support staff, recently graduated from the Marine Corps Civil Affairs Course. Palm is the first Navy Global Health Engagement (GHE)/Force Health Protection Officer to complete the course.

As a force health protection officer with a focus on GHE, Palm is now trained to help the Marine Corps utilize global health engagement through civil affairs. Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) often support foreign aid and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) missions. According to Palm, it is imperative during these missions to understand the local populations from a cultural perspective.

“You look at what exactly the population needs, and based off of that, you do your assessment and make decisions to support the MAGTF Commander,” Palm explained. “It could be food, it could be water, it could be building structures, it could be health security, or it could be building a hospital. It is basic needs that we, as the military, are tasked to go out there to support. In effect, that portion is Global Health Engagement.”

GHE and the role of a global health professional marry up with force health protection, according to Palm.
“It’s protecting the Marine, and minimizing the risk of exposure among the population, therefore, making the population that’s at risk healthier; so it’s accomplishing the mission and helping other people,” she said.

Force health protection officers evaluate mission environmental information to determine requirements for immunizations, disease intervention and potential exposure to prepare the force and assure they come back safely. The work of a force health protection officer is not the same from one place to another. It depends on the country, it depends on what the force will potentially be exposed to, and it depends on the MAGTF and the commander’s mission. For example, if the mission takes place in a location with a high infectious disease rate, that factor must be considered.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Janette Arencibia, the deputy surgeon for MARFORRES/MARFORSOUTH, highlighted the civil affairs course’s importance to medical officers like Palm.

“It’s the endorsement from the Marine Corps that they value Global Health Engagements, and acknowledge the contribution to their mission set,” she explained. “Our relationship is bound by a maritime partnership, and the Marine Corps endorses the medical mission and the Global Health Engagement mission as a part of their overall mission to work together.”

Coordination between the Marine Corps and local populations is traditionally conducted by civil affairs specialists who are trained to engage with key influencers and determine how to best sustain the mission. Being a GHE officer trained in civil affairs allows Palm to look at medical situations from both perspectives. She can provide planning information and suggestions that enable civil affairs and military medical personnel to empower each other.

“Navy Medicine is in support of the Marine Corps, to enable the Marine Corps to meet and exceed their mission."Cmdr. Janette Arencibia, Deputy Surgeon, MARFORRES/MARFORSOUTH

GHE can also provide the Marine Corps with a strategic advantage. Role-one care is medical care at the point of injury, usually self-aid or buddy aid. Role-two care is generally provided in support of Marines, by the Navy, for more severe injuries. Role-three care is usually a field hospital or fixed facility with multiple beds. Through GHE and the Civil Affairs community, Palm and others like her can assist the Navy and the Joint Force in identifying host and partner nation hospitals able to fulfill the role of providing role-two and role-three care. This means Marines would receive care not only through organic U.S. Navy and sister Service facilities, but also through safe, highly-selected local ones as well.

“We do this already in other geographical combatant commands, namely U.S. Central Command, where we have critical care teams that work in the host and partner nation hospitals through agreements with the Cleveland Clinic,” said Arencibia. “What we want to do is explore opportunities for us to partner with other nations to build capability and capacity. We learn from them as much as they learn from us, and that’s why with Global Health Engagement, and with Lt. Cmdr. Palms’ opportunity, we plan to build capabilities and complement what other countries do for us already.”

Palm and Arencibia are already looking for ways to support MARFORRES and MARFORSOUTH missions through GHE operations. Arencibia used Honduras as an example.

“Honduras may have a requirement for their personnel to be trained in Tactical Combat Critical Care, so we will come back to MARFORRES and look for teams of individuals that we can send to work in Honduras,” said Arencibia. “That way, it contributes to the readiness of the Marine Forces Reserve and those forces that rotate through, as well as (strengthens) the relationship with Honduras, and is recognized as a Marine Corps mission.

“We, in partnership with the Marine Corps and other service components, work to achieve USSOUTHCOM [U.S. Southern Command] initiatives,” said Arencibia.

This is done by activating Reservists and having them support the USSOUTHCOM Global Health Engagement mission set.

“The Marine Forces Reserve/Marine Forces South is a natural fit because Marine Forces Reserve Command provides the opportunity for rotational forces that can be employed in and throughout SOUTHCOM to make ready Marines and sailors for the mission,” said Arencibia. “That combination allows us to do things like Global Health Engagement to demonstrate Marine Corps’ support to the USSOUTHCOM mission set, and a large contingent of that has to do with the US SOUTHCOM Global Health Engagement strategy.”

Arencibia also emphasized the importance of the Navy in support of the Marine Corps mission.

“Navy Medicine is in support of the Marine Corps, to enable the Marine Corps to meet and exceed their mission,” she said. “Medical for the Marine Corps is considered a soft power. It gives the commander of any MAGTF or any commander the opportunity to extend a capability to aid in our relationships with host and partner nations.”

According to Palm, civil affairs teams are integral to the success of GHE. Many of the missions that civil affairs support, like HA/DR, are heavily intertwined with medical needs. Palm’s new civil affairs training allows her to see the missions from their viewpoint and her own.

GHE also has the potential to evolve in support of Force Design 2030. Arencibia and Palm are specifically looking to inform GHE missions that will support activities in and throughout the littoral.

“When we talk about our brown water operations, we want to send role-two damage-control resuscitative surgical capability out with Marines,” explained Arencibia. “It’s putting things forward and in throughout the littorals, in support of the Marine Corps, for life-saving measures, because we envision that there is potentially a time when we’re not going to have air superiority.”
Developing plans to improve the survivability of Marines is the priority as Palm plans exercises. Sending surgeons with smaller equipment sets into the littorals facilitates training to provide life-saving measures and patient sustainment until they can transfer to the next level of care.

Applying the perspective gained by training in civil affairs as a force health protection officer, Palm is now working to further develop the Navy/Marine Corps team for the future fight, and to modernize the way that Navy Medicine supports Marines and Force Design 2030.