NEWS | Aug. 28, 2012

JTF-Bravo delivers medical care to Costa Rica

By 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz Joint Task Force-Bravo

Thirty-eight members of Joint Task Force-Bravo recently treated 704 patients during a two-day joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise in partner with the Costa Rican Ministry of Health and Social Services.

In the two villages of San Juan and Damitas, Costa Rica, local patients received preventative medicine briefings, health screenings, dental care, and prescription medicine.

At the first station, patients received education on ways to stay healthy as well as vitamins and de-worming medicine. U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Carlos Salilican, NCO in charge of preventative medicine at JTF-Bravo's Medical Element, was grateful to participate in his first MEDRETE.

"We were the first people that the patients saw and we were able to give them a lot of good information on preventative medicine," said Salilican. "I think it went really well and what we're doing here is great."

In charge of patient flow during the exercise, MEDEL Operations Director Air Force Capt. Joy Spillers played a major role in ensuring the mission was successful. After three to four months of planning with various other key organizations, she saw teamwork as a vital element during the exercise.

"During the MEDRETE, I was in charge of coordinating a lot of the moving pieces," said Spillers. "At first everyone had to learn each other's processes -- but then everybody knew what they had to do and I was really impressed at how everyone worked together to make it successful."

Dr. Miguel Coello, MEDEL liaison officer and general practitioner, agrees that teamwork ensured success. In charge of working with the local national authorities and providers, he was very appreciative of how accommodating both the Ministry of Health and the Social Services staff members were.

"The Ministry of Health as well as the Social Services were very supportive," said Coello. "They were very happy and excited to see us and I think we all worked very well as a team."

Coello also saw the same type of gratitude among the locals that received treatment during the MEDRETE.

"The patients were very eager to see us," he said. "They were so grateful for our presence and were very welcoming at the same time. It was like we were a part of their community."

As mission commander for the MEDRETE, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Paul Harris, Army Forces Battalion assistant operations officer, explains that there are additional benefits of exercises like this, spanning beyond the main objective of providing medical care.

"Our mission was two-fold -- build partnership capacity and alleviate human suffering," said Harris. "Through working with and integrating Costa Rica's Ministry of Health and Social Services, we definitely strengthened our relationship with them. The mission went extremely well."

During these exercises, ARFOR provides logistics, force protection, and communications capability, in addition to being a key player in the planning and coordination stages. JTF-Bravo's 1-228 Aviation Regiment provides transportation support, and like ARFOR, is heavily involved in the planning and coordination stages leading up to a MEDRETE.

There are several mission objectives to these exercises, to include providing U.S. military personnel training in delivering medical care in austere conditions, promoting diplomatic relations between the U.S. and host nations in Central America, and providing humanitarian and civic assistance via a long-term proactive program.