SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Fifty-five members from Joint Task Force-Bravo returned to base yesterday after partnering with the Honduran Ministry of Health and Honduran military to provide medical care to 1,774 patients in a four-day joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise.
The team traveled to the municipalities of Batalla and Wawina in Gracias a Dios, conducting the MEDRETE in the local schools. Patients received a preventative medicine briefing, health screenings and were able to see a healthcare provider for further treatment as indicated.
At the first station, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel De La Torre, Medical Element Medical Technician, assisted in screening patients. For him, serving on the MEDRETE team was an eight-year dream come true.
"I've been trying to get on this type of (humanitarian) mission ever since I joined the Air Force," said the med tech. "I found out that there was this mission and volunteered for it... I finally got the opportunity."
Growing up in Mexico, De La Torre remembers what it was like seeing U.S. forces help his community. For him, this MEDRETE hit home.
"As I see these kids, I see myself," he said. "I saw Americans come to Mexico and help out - so I get to taste a little bit of what they did for me when I was growing up. You just really can't describe the feeling."
Although this was a first time for some, others on the team have been on several JTF-Bravo MEDRETE's. After nearly two decades, one dentist in particular still finds each of them to be extremely rewarding.
"It brings me a lot of satisfaction to know that with my coordinating efforts, I contribute in providing medical and dental care to isolated and under-served populations," said Dr. Wilmer Amador, Dentist and Medical Element liaison officer.
Dr. Amador's efforts are mainly dedicated to dental care during the MEDRETE, but he is also responsible for a great deal of planning before the exercise even begins. From coordinating with the Honduran Ministry of Health and military, to working with the Army Forces Battalion of JTF-Bravo, his position allows him to see all aspects of the exercise. With his experience and from his standpoint, he sees how far things have come.
"We've been able to do so much with MEDRETE's... people have no idea," he said. "We have procured in the last six to seven years, more preventive medicine components. The Honduran population and most of the population anywhere we do MEDRETE's are very appreciative of what we do."
Looking back over the four-day exercise, MEDEL Commander and Pediatrician U.S. Army Col. Matthew Rettke sees the exercise as another success.
"It was excellent," said Rettke. "At every one of our five clinical stations, we had great teamwork and cooperation. The populations we served were in great need of medical care and the people we treated expressed gratitude to all of us."
There are several mission objectives to MEDRETES, to include providing U.S. military personnel training in delivering 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.