NEWS | Dec. 21, 2011

A soldier returns home

By Capt. Candice Allen Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Officer

Born 50 kilometers away in the department of Quetzaltenango, Capt. Sergio Lopez, an executive officer for Army Forces, Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, returned to his birth place during a medical readiness and training exercise earlier this month.

"This [MEDRETE] helps people from my country," Lopez said. "Before it was just business."

Although this was a homecoming for the soldier, there was a mission to do.

Lopez served as a translator and facilitated communication between Guatemalan nationals and Joint Task Force-Bravo servicemembers as well as the JTF-Bravo commander during the exercise.

During the MEDRETE, medical professionals saw more than 1,400 villagers and treated illnesses including respiratory infections, skin infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis, diabetes and high blood pressure in El Codo and Champerico, Guatemala.

Lopez moved from Quetzaltenango to Guatemala City as a young boy and attended the Guatemalan Military Academy.

During the MEDRETE, Lopez ran into some of the Guatemalan servicemembers who attended the academy with him.

"I had always wanted serve in the military and become an officer," he said.

However, that dream was deferred as he moved to California to be closer to his mother.

"I graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in California and six months before graduation I enlisted in the Navy," the captain said.

After serving six years in the Navy, he became a U.S. citizen - a prerequisite to becoming a military officer.

"So once I became a U.S. citizen, I put in my officer packet the next year," he said.

His dream came true as he was accepted into the University of Arizona's Reserve Officer Training Program.

"My family is very happy we're doing this and proud of me," he said.

By the end of the four-day mission, U.S. and Guatemalan medical staff assisted nearly 150 dental patients and screened more than 1,000 people.

More than 650 Guatemalans received items from the pharmacy who otherwise may not have received prescriptions.

JTF-Bravo's medical professionals are slated to conduct another MEDRETE in Honduras next month.

In fiscal year 2011, JTF-Bravo medical members conducted 15 MEDRETES treating more than 41,000 patients throughout Central America.