SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Joint Task Force - Bravo's Medical Element (MEDEL) partnered with the Honduran Ministry of Health and the Honduran Military to provide medical care to more than 1,200 people over two days in Auka and Tipimuna, two remote villages in the Gracias a Dios region of Honduras during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE), Dec. 2-5.
"These exercise are invaluable because they offer an outstanding opportunity to work with other medical specialties and with our Honduran counterparts," said U.S. Army Captain Vicki English, the commander for this mission. "This MEDRETE was a little different because we were actually part of a disaster relief validation exercise for JTF-Bravo and everyone worked well together and pitched in to provide much needed medical care to the local population."
The care for the patients included classes on hygiene, nutrition, and preventative dental care. Medical professionals also provided dental care, wellness checkups, medications, and performed some minor medical procedures.
Along with routine care, JTF-Bravo worked together to respond to a medical emergency during one of the MEDRETES, and performed a successful medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) of a six-week old infant.
"We saved this baby's life, and it was pretty amazing how in a little over an hour, with support from the 1-228th Aviation Regiment, we could MEDEVAC this baby from the site to the Puerta Lempira Hospital," said Capt. English.
The remote location of the mission presented its own unique set of challenges for the members of MEDEL, not the least of which was a language barrier due to the fact the local population spoke Miskito, an indigenous Honduran language, rather than Spanish.
"The personnel on this mission were faced with several challenges, including the shortage of Miskito translators and the fact everything had to be translated twice, but everyone remained positive and was able to adapt to the challenges and we were able to provide much needed medical care to many patients," said U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Joseph Minor, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge for this MEDRETE. "We came together and planned this MEDRETE in two weeks and worked with a group of professionals that made this mission a complete success. We were all very motivated to give back to the people of Honduras."
MEDEL is made up of 61 Army personnel who have come together from all over the United States and have provided medical care to over 3,500 Hondurans over the last six months. MEDEL provides preventative medical care, wellness check-ups, dental care, preventative dental care, surgical care, and physical therapy through local partnerships in Comayagua and through Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs) which are carried out on a weekly basis.
Joint Task Force-Bravo conducts MEDRETES throughout Central America each year in support of U.S. Southern Command's humanitarian and disaster relief programs in order to strengthen civil-military cooperation between the United States and nations in the region.