SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras - –
They stood in the shade of palm trees, lining a fence made of tall sticks and barbed wire, as they waited patiently to enter a makeshift clinic for a rare opportunity for medical care.
The nearest alternative healthcare providers? Eight hours up river, or a day's ride along the ocean coast.
These were the villagers of Barra Patuca, who sought care during a medical readiness exercise sponsored by Joint Task Force-Bravo, in conjunction with the Honduran Ministries of Health and Defense, in the remote region of Gracias a Dios, in northeastern Honduras April 22-25, 2015.
A total of 35 JTF-B personnel and Honduran medical providers participated in the MEDRETE, providing free medical care to 1,200 people over the course of two days.
Averaging more than 20 MEDRETES per year, JTF-Bravo conducts these operations, in conjunction with its Honduran and Central American counterparts, to enhance relations with host-nation partners, test its ability to provide medical care during disaster-relief or humanitarian missions, and to support the Ministry of Health's efforts to treat the population.
"It is always a humbling experience to conduct these missions," said 1st Lieutenant Perry Morgan, a member of JTF-B's Medical Element and the officer in charge of the MEDRETE. "Our team successfully worked side-by-side with the local Ministry of Health and the Honduran Military [expanding] our relationship with the nation and local support structures," Morgan said.
Based out of Mocoron, the multi-national group rose each day at 5 a.m. to load the equipment needed for the day before flying to Barra Patuca to provide medical care to the villagers. Services included preventative medicine, dental, primary care and pharmacy services.
A young female patient from the town said she came to the MEDRETE clinic site so her infant son could be seen by a provider. "I am very appreciative that you came here," she said, claiming she received all the help she needed.
Reflecting on his experience at the MEDRETE, U.S. Army Capt. Michael Pratt, MEDEL officer in charge of preventative medicine, had this to say:
"I feel truly honored to serve the citizens of Honduras," he said.
The present staff of MEDEL is comprised of 63 Army personnel who have come together from Arkansas and Texas, as well different areas of the United States. In the last 12 months, MEDEL has provided medical care to more than 9,000 people in the region.
"I personally enjoy these missions and events, as I am a registered nurse and have a true calling to help others," Morgan said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity the military has given me to help others and hope we continue to conduct these exercises in the future."