United States military personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, have been conducting Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETE) since Oct. 1993. Since that time, they have executed more than 300 missions and treated more than 340,000 medical patients and 70,000 dental patients throughout Central America.
These exercises, now known as Global Health Engagements, support thousands of people throughout Central America and the Caribbean. These missions support humanitarian and civic assistance operations to enhance U.S. and Central American relations, and support and conduct medical training with host nation military forces as well as government and civilian organizations.
There are several mission objectives to Global Health Engagements, including maintaining U.S. military personnel readiness by training in delivery of medical care in austere conditions, promoting diplomatic relations between the U.S. and host nations in Central America, and providing humanitarian and civic assistance via a long-term proactive program.
These exercises bring together key members of the U.S. and foreign militaries, U.S. Embassy Country Teams, Non-Governmental Organizations, Host Nation government agencies and local civilian organizations.
To conduct these missions, personnel from active, guard, and reserve components of the U.S. military work side-by-side with their foreign counterparts, including host nation Ministry of Health representatives, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, non-governmental organizations, volunteer translators and a variety of community members.
JTF-Bravo's Medical Element also conducts numerous outreach programs to build relationships within the host nation medical community, build partner capacity, maintain the skills of its medical providers and engage with local communities to foster good will. These efforts include surgical skills training for the Surgeon Cell in Honduran hospitals, as well as subject matter expert exchanges in Ministry of Health facilities, in disciplines such as Physical Therapy and Community Health, allowing MEDEL providers to teach as well as learn from their counterparts.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common cases seen during a Global Health Engagement?
Primary medical care, which includes respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatological issues and tropical diseases; dental care with acute infections and extractions; preventive medicine education, health assessments and de-worming. In some cases, the mission also includes a separate team conducting general surgeries at a local hospital with host nation counterparts.
Are Global Health Engagements conducted only in Honduras?
JTF-Bravo routinely conducts Global Health Engagements all across Central America at the request of their governments.
Does the Ministry of Health or any other host nation authority support these missions?
Yes, Global Health Engagements are coordinated through local Ministry of Health. Local Ministries of Health, NGOs or local government organizations may also provide physicians, nurses, technicians, health promoters and volunteers, and can also facilitate the use of space at their clinics, hospitals, churches, community centers or schools to evaluate and treat patients, and provide follow-up care.
What type of support does JTF-Bravo receive from the locations where the missions are conducted?
The villages, cities or locations provide the use of space at their local facilities to see patients, and community leaders help with promoting the mission.
What is the most valuable part of these medical exercises?
The most valuable part of a Global Health Engagement for deployed units is that it gives them real world training to enhance their readiness, as well as helps them gain medical and surgical skills by working under austere conditions in remote areas. For the host nation, they provide health education, disease prevention, medical services, as well as personal and professional exchanges. If the mission includes a surgical portion, it helps to alleviate the local hospitals' surgical backlog.
What are the most common cases seen during specialty MEDRETEs?
Ophtalmology - Cataract, strabismus, reconstructive orbital and lid surgery.
Urology - Urethra stricture reconstruction, urinary tract stones, tumors, pediatric congenital urinary tract malformations, trauma, female incontinence.
Otolaryngology - Tympanic membrane reconstruction, mastoidectomies to control chronic middle and inner ear infections, hearing aids, trauma surgery.
Pediatric Orthopedics - Correcting hip dysphasia, chronic bone infections (osteomyelitis), acute trauma, clubfoot, congenital malformations.
Hand Surgery - Acute and old hand injuries including nerve, tendon and bone reconstruction, occupational therapy and congenital hand malformations.
Dental - Crowns, spacers, pediatric dentistry and sealants.
Pediatric Nutrition - Nutritional assessments, pediatric care in respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatological and tropical diseases.
General Surgery - Acute trauma, surgical emergencies, gallbladder disease, hernias, gastric tumors, thyroid diseases, tonsillectomies and general surgery cases.