WASPAM, Nicaragua –
Approximately 40 personnel from Joint Task Force – Bravo participated in a Medical Readiness Training Exercise here March 28-31 in support of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health area representatives.
Traveling in helicopters from the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, the team departed Soto Cano Air Base on March 27, stopping first in Managua to load the needed medical supplies, then traveled to Waspam for set-up. The MEDRETE kicked off the next day with close to 1,600 patients expected for the entire exercise.
The Oswaldo Padilla Clinic, a small, regional hospital, hosted the U.S. medical team and allowed the use of their facilities to receive patients from across the Waspam area and provide them with preventive medicine consultations, dental care, basic health care and pharmacy services.
“The logistics and organization for this MEDRETE were definitely more in-depth than any previous ones in other countries,” said Capt. Nathan Hagen, Officer in Charge and nurse practitioner with JTF-Bravo’s Medical Element. “There were a lot more moving parts because of the location, but I am very happy we were able to come here to provide medical services to this community.”
The people of the Waspam village benefited from a medicine health class that provided valuable information on vector-borne illnesses affecting the tropical area such as malaria and dengue fever. Also included were basic medical services, dentistry classes and extractions, pharmacy services as well as de-worming medication and vitamins.
Dr. Wilmer Amador, a 25 year dentist with JTF-Bravo’s MEDEL, said this is his fourth time doing a MEDRETE in Nicaragua, but the first with a village of a larger population.
“In previous years, the villages were smaller and more remote.” said Amador. “It was intimidating at first, but we know what our capabilities are so we knew we would be able to provide the services needed.”
MEDRETEs help validate the JTF's ability to perform medical care under austere conditions in remote locations, while also providing an opportunity to help the host nation and, in this case, build relationships between the U.S. and Nicaragua.
“The people in need are very appreciative for what we do for them and we are happy to help. We feel very welcome here,” said Amador.
The task-force deploys more than 10 medical engagements per year to enhance relations through medical training with regional military forces and local civil organizations. They also support the MOH efforts to provide medical care to underprivileged populations throughout Central America.
Dr. Francisco Frixione, a dentist from Managua, volunteered to come with the team and offer his services.
“The technology JTF-Bravo has is more advanced than what I am used to, and I am happy to be learning a new and more advanced way of providing care, and gaining more experience. Partnering like this helps us not only learn new ways of doing things, but also learn the differences in cultures to become more open – minded and willing to learn new things that can help us in the future,” said Frixone.
Hagen said this was a very successful exercise with more than 1,600 patients seen and approximately 360 tooth extractions performed over the three-day exercise.
“We are here engaging other cultures in our mission and the good involved in what we are doing is what we hope to leave behind,” said Hagen. “We hope the local population remembers us and what everyone working together were able to do for them here.”
MEDRETE’s are a way to demonstrate JTF – Bravo’s commitment to support partner nation efforts to provide assistance to their people. The U.S, at the invitation of the host nations, works by, with, and through the country teams to provide needed medical services.