NEWS | June 26, 2009

Poptun mayor highlights impact of medical exercise on community

By Tech. Sgt. Michael Hammond Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

The mayor of Poptun highlighted the importance of preventive medicine and inter-agency cooperation during a visit to the medical readiness and training exercise (MEDRETE) held at the Brazos de Amor community center here June 25.

Mayor Angel Kelkan Ochoa is responsible for an area of 1,700 square miles and a population of more than 50,000 people - to include a military installation and the soldiers on it.

He toured the site of the combined MEDRETE June 25, a day which saw more than 500 patients evaluated and treated by lunchtime. Led by 23 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo, based at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, the exercise saw more than 1,400 men, women, and children receive care.

The mayor said that like any city, Poptun has problems - one of which is public health.

"The important thing is to focus on solving the problems. The humanitarian aid we can provide as partners assists us in attacking the health issues our city faces," Mayor Ochoa said.

One example of such humanitarian aid is the ongoing MEDRETE being conducted in Poptun. The exercise is being held in cooperation and partnership with the Guatemalan Military Group, Guatemalan Army - which is providing logistical and security support - and the Guatemalan Ministry of Health.

"There is only one doctor for every 10,000 people in this area," the mayor said. "Since there is not a strong health education system in place here, the preventive medicine education you are providing will be particularly helpful," he said, referring to the classes all patients must attend before being seen by doctors.

The mayor added that by communicating and working with the military group and the Guatemalan Army to set up this medical exercise, the city of Poptun has been able to accomplish other necessary processes - such as building schools and installing wells and water pumps.

The commander of the Center of Army Training, a major Guatemalan military installation in Poptun, agreed with the mayor on the value of such efforts.

"I'm grateful to the government and city of Poptun, and to Brazos de Amor (a non-governmental aid organization, which provided the building used for the exercise) for helping us put this mission on," said Col. Alvarado Castillo. "We were happy to be able to provide soldiers to support the medical exercise."

The MEDRETE is scheduled to conclude tomorrow, with an expected total of more than 1,800 patients treated. It is part of JTF-Bravo's continuing efforts to promote security, stability and prosperity in the Central American region.