SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element (MEDEL), with support from JTF-Bravo Joint Security Forces, partnered with the Honduran Ministry of Health, the Honduran National Police, and the Honduran military to provide medical care to nearly 1,000 people over two days in El Naranjo, a remote village in the La Paz region of Honduras during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE), April 24-25.
"The communication between the U.S. Armed Forces and the Honduran Ministry of Health, the Honduran National Police, the Honduran Military, the city of La Paz, and the town of El Naranjo was exceptional and made this MEDRETE extremely smooth and helped everyone to work in unison," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joe Mayo, non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of this MEDRETE. "The city of La Paz also supported the exercise by providing tents, tables, and chairs which helped to aid in the comfort of the MEDRETE team and the patients and aided in the success of this mission. It was a validation of the hard work that the Medical Element had been conducting the last two months since we arrived in country, specifically the convoy training; which was an essential task for the success of this exercise."
The JTF-Bravo team, the Honduran Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Honduran military worked together to provide preventative medicine to their patients which included classes on hygiene, hand washing, preventative dental care, and nutrition. They also provided immunizations to infants, dental care, well women screenings, wellness checkups, medications, and minor medical procedures.
When the MEDRETE team arrived on Thursday, they were greeted by two lines of children that cheered and shook each person's hand and welcomed them to their school.
"This village was handpicked by the Mayor of La Paz City, Mrs. Gilma Torres, and the Ministry of Health," said U.S. Army Capt. Taniqueka Harvey the officer-in-charge of this mission. "When the school asked if they could do a little something as appreciation for us coming and conducting a MEDRETE, I didn't realize how much effort they would put into it. It really warmed my heart to see all the children lined up waiting to greet us. I felt extremely welcomed and embraced by the village of El Naranjo. As for the closing you could really feel how much it meant to them that we selected their village. I would have never imagined that they would put an entire show together to show their gratitude."
The children of El Naranjo received soccer balls and shirts donated by the Kick for Nick Foundation from Joint Task Force-Bravo service members. Kick for Nick was founded to honor the memory of U. S. Army Private First Class Nicholas Madaras who died while serving in Iraq in 2006. The foundation's mission is to foster goodwill and peace through the sport of soccer by collecting soccer balls and delivering them into the hands of less fortunate children around the world.
The closing ceremony, which was put on by the Nueva Generacion school in El Naranjo, began with a traditional Honduran prayer of thanks, several performances including a couple of traditional Honduran folk dances, and several speeches where the people of the community thanked everyone involved. The community also presented the JTF-Bravo MEDEL, the La Paz MOH, the Honduran Military, and the Honduran National Police with a picture in appreciation and presented all involved with a decorated bag of coffee from the local region as a sign of their gratitude for the work that they had done over those two days.
"The MEDRETE was a soulful experience and it was amazing to be able to help those in need and to see the gratitude they had for the medical care we provided," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Noah Cunningham, one of the dental technicians from MEDEL. "I feel humbled to be a part of a nation that has the ability to send soldiers out to help in a community like El Naranjo and it is a great training for us that makes a positive impact."
Joint Task Force-Bravo's MEDEL is composed of 61 U.S. Army personnel who have come together from across the United States and have provided medical care to more than 8,000 people in remote villages such as Cuesta de la Virgen, Barra Patuca, Usibila, Raya, Las Liconas, El Ciruelo, Plan de Leones, Auka and Tipimuna in the last year. The current MEDEL had been training for two months in preparation for this MEDRETE to include convoy training, communications training, and several other soldier tasks.
MEDEL provides preventative medical care, wellness check-ups, dental care, preventative dental care, surgical care, and physical therapy through local partnerships in Comayagua, Tegucigalpa, and through local MEDRETES which are carried out on a weekly basis.