NEWS | May 18, 2009

JTF-Bravo conducts first medical exercise in Nicaragua

By Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Danet Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Three U.S. military helicopters delivered a team of 34 Soldiers and Airmen from Joint Task Force-Bravo to this remote, mountainous village to conduct the first medical readiness exercise in Nicaragua and provide necessary medical care to those who need it most.

The team of doctors, nurses, technicians, translators, aviators and administrators expects to see more than 800 patients over the two-day MEDRETE in this town 120 miles northwest of the capital city of Managua.

"This is going to be an outstanding trip," said Army Lt. Col. Richard Somers, mission commander. "I've never seen anything so well organized as this," he said, speaking of the cooperation between JTF-Bravo, the U.S. Military Group in Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health and the Nicaraguan military.

Dr. Carlos Duron, a liaison officer with JTF-B's Medical Element, began the day by sharing information on preventive medicine, including how to avoid parasites through proper hand washing, water collection and use, and sanitation.

Women with children as young as 24 days old traveled to the makeshift clinic to learn about preventive health and receive vitamins for themselves and their children. They also came to discuss a wide variety of medical ailments.

Jeronima Montenegro Ortiz came with her three children: Mayling, 13; Oscar, 8; and a newborn boy who is yet to be named. Ms. Ortiz said she had concerns that her son, Oscar, has had a cold for quite some time. She also suffers a great deal of fatigue and pain following the recent cesarean delivery of her youngest son.

"The doctors were very kind," she said.

After visiting the preventive medicine clinic, patients moved through a triage section to determine which doctors or medics they needed to see. For the most part, the medical staff said they were seeing a lot of people with coughs, colds and congestion.

"That's pretty normal for here," said Maj. Nancy Gormley, a JTF-Bravo nurse. "This is a very wet, tropical climate so the bugs never die here."

People with more serious conditions were referred to the local medical system for more extensive care, said Army Col. Otto Boneta, JTF-B's MEDEL commander.

Following the two-day exercise here, the team moves on to the village of El Almendro for three more days of patient care.