SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Medical personnel with the Medical Element, Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B), have a unique set of responsibilities when planning to conduct a Global Health Engagement across Latin America and the Caribbean, but their main focus is always patient care.
For U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Caitlyn Stewart, the J4 NCO-in-charge of plans and operations with JTF-B, her responsibility is to ensure those medical personnel and their supplies get where they need to be.
“My focus is the reception, onward movement, staging and integration (RSO&I) of military personnel,” said Stewart. “We are always behind the scenes coordinating the logistics so personnel performing the mission can focus on getting the job done as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”
This also means personnel must be able to move in and out of countries, as well as their cargo and the aircraft that takes them to each location.
“I had to make sure I ordered an aircraft that could fit all of our personnel and cargo needed to support this mission,” said Stewart. “Immigration processes also needed to be handled for our personnel, our aircraft and the Colombian aircraft that transported us back and forth from San Andres Island to Providencia. Without having any of this cleared, we would have not been able to get into Colombia.”
Additionally, this specific mission presented logistical challenges for lodging and sustainment due to its location and last natural disaster.
“In November 2020, Hurricane Iota completely devastated the island and left people of the island with nowhere to live,” said Stewart. “They had to resort to living in tents and any place with cover. This made it challenging for our personnel to also stay on the island because there was only one hotel we could stay at and it was still under construction since the storm, and food and resourceful water was very limited.”
Through Stewart’s close coordination with the Colombian Embassy and security cooperation organizations, approximately 25 service members made it to Colombia with a room to sleep, 40 cases of water and 40 cases of Meals Ready to Eat to last the week where they provided medical care to more than 600 local residents of Providencia and Santa Catalina Island.
“At the end of the day it was a very successful mission,” said Stewart. “This couldn’t have been done without medical, logistics and Colombian personnel.”