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Reserve Citizen Airmen treat Honduran patients during medical readiness training exercise

By Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo | 403rd Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 1, 2020

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. —

Twenty-one Air Force Reserve medics with the 403rd Wing took part of a Medical Readiness Training Exercise Dec. 4-18.

Known as the 403rd MEDRETE 2019 Honduras, Airmen from the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron and 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here as well as reservists from around the country, worked with a team of doctors from the Joint Task Force-Bravo Surgeon’s Cell out of Soto Cano Air Base, to provide free medical care to the citizens of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The 28-member Air Force Reserve medical care team consisted of family medicine, emergency medicine, dental services, hospital administrators, clinical nurses, air evacuation nurses and medical technicians. During the two-week annual tour, the team worked out of Hospital Escuela and provided care to more than 790 patients, according to Lt. Col Sabrina Hawkins, 403rd ASTS deputy commander.

“The training we received at Hospital Escuela was an incredible opportunity for our Airmen to receive real-world experience in order to prepare for deployments in austere environments,” said Hawkins. “Hands-on missions like this challenge us all to move out of our comfort zone, think outside of the box and prepare for mass casualty incidents, especially for those members who have never deployed.”

Nine of the medical technicians who went on the trip had never deployed. 

“This trip to Hospital Escuela in Honduras improved our training and deployment capabilities by putting us in real-world situations such as trauma and limited resources to give the patients the best possible level of care,” said Capt. Rachel Pickich, 36th AES nurse.

Not only did Reserve Citizen Airmen receive an exceptional training opportunity, they also gave back to hundreds of Honduran patients and family members.

“In the United States we are used to a certain standard of care,” said Hawkins. “When we saw that there were more patients than supplies and staff, we knew we could make a difference by giving any kind of support whether it was a donation of medical supplies, providing medical care or just holding the hand of a very frightened patient.”

The training also provided medical care specialists a chance to interact with foreign national health care and to treat tropical diseases typically not seen in the United States.

According to Hawkins, this was the first all Air Force Reserve MEDRETE team and included members from Air Force Reserve Command, and the 944th Medical Squadron, Luke Air Force Base and 943rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. These exercises bring together personnel from active, guard, and reserve components of the U.S. military who work side-by-side with their foreign counterparts, including host nation Ministry of Health representatives, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, non-governmental organizations, volunteer translators and community members. United States military personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, have been conducting MEDRETES since October 1993. Since that time, they have executed more than 300 missions and treated more than 340,000 medical patients and 70,000 dental patients.