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News | Sept. 23, 2008

U.S. servicemembers partner with Honduran medical teams to provide specialized surgeries

By Staff Sgt. Joel Mease Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

U.S. medical teams deployed to the Honduran capital for 15 days to team with Honduran medical professionals and perform specialized hand surgeries Sept. 8-19.

The servicemembers, who deployed from Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas; Walter Reed Medical Center, Washington, D.C.; and Ft. Riley, Kan., screened more than 80 patients, with half of those were scheduled for surgery during the two-week period.

The purpose of the deployment was to allow the teams to perform a medical readiness exercise in a remote area of the world. It also allowed the team to work with another country giving them the opportunity to learn from one another, said. Army Lt. Col. Chris Wilson, mission commander.

"Overall our time spent here was a tremendous success," Colonel Wilson said. "It was a great opportunity for us to train and learn in more austere conditions."

Another benefit of the deployment was the medical teams had the opportunity to perform their practice on a larger scale.

"We did more surgeries in a two-week period then we would in three to four months at Brooke Army Medical Center," Colonel Wilson said.

While the training for the medical readiness exercise provided a big benefit for the teams that deployed to Honduras, it also gave a great service to the Honduran community as well, he said.

"For the two weeks we were here, I believe we provided a significant service to the local community," Colonel Wilson said. "Most of the people we saw, if not all, would probably not have had the chance to get these services. These surgeries, in many ways, offer some of the patients a whole new life."

Giving the patients a chance at a better life is something that makes Army Specialist Angela Burnham is especially proud.

"It really means a lot to me to get the opportunity to come here and be apart of this mission," said Specialist Burnham, an operating room technician from Brooke Army Medical Center. "For many, this is a chance to earn a better wage for their families or live life in a much easier way."

The medical team deploys to Honduras on a near-yearly basis and has enjoyed a great working relationship with the Honduran community, said Colonel Wilson, who is serving his third mission in Honduras.

"The support we receive from (Joint Task Force-Bravo) and the Honduran medical community to make this all work is just amazing," Colonel Wilson said.