NEWS | Nov. 24, 2008

U.S., Belize military medical teams provide disaster relief medical care for flood victims

By Tech. Sgt. John Asselin Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

A 33-person team from Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed to Belize Nov. 13-15 to provide disaster relief medical care to people affected by serious flooding in the region.

In partnership with a Belize Defense Force team, JTF-Bravo medical crews, based out of Price Barracks near Belize International Airport, airlifted into the villages of Burrell Boom and Crooked Tree to offer preventive health instruction, general medical care and medications to the local residents.

"We received a request to assist the Belize government with providing medical assistance for people devastated by recent flooding," said Capt. Tara Waddles, the JTF-Bravo Medical Element operations officer. "This was not a planned event for us, so we put together a team, planned the mission and flew down here to help the people of Belize."

More than 300 people were seen by the joint U.S./Belize medical team the first day in Burrell Boom. The team saw more than 300 additional people the following two days in Crooked Tree, a village completely cut off from assistance by land because of the flooding. Doctors and medics also made two house calls in Crooked Tree for elderly residents who were unable to travel to the clinic.

Everyone who came to the field clinic received a preventive health briefing, where they learned basic hygiene, and received vitamins and de-worming medication. They then moved to the screening area to determine the cause of any problem.

"We ask the people to explain their medical problem," said Army Staff Sgt. Jenise Harris, a JTF-Bravo medic. "If their illness is something I can help them with, I do. If it is beyond what I can do, I refer them to a medical provider."

Most people seen had minor medical issues - cold symptoms and upset stomachs. Patients with more advanced problems were able to see a medical provider.

"I've seen mostly upper respiratory illness, diabetes and hypertension," said Capt. (Dr.) David Armstrong, a flight surgeon from the 1-228th Aviation Regiment. "We've had quite a few elderly people with high-blood pressure, and a lot of children with the typical illnesses children get."

The mission didn't just give something to the people in the villages in Belize, members from the JTF-Bravo team also received something to take home with them.

"It is a very rewarding experience," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kat Mansfield, an emergency medical technician deployed to JTF-Bravo from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "I had no idea what our mission would be before I deployed here, and would love to go on more of these missions before I head back home."