NEWS | Aug. 18, 2008

U.S., C.A. countries participate in medical readiness exercise

By Staff Sgt. Joel Mease Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

More than 120 servicemembers and civilian volunteers from the United States and Central America arrived here Aug. 18 in support of a medical readiness exercise.

The deployment to Puerto Castillo is designed to allow the United States and Central American countries participating to prepare for an emergency humanitarian response, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Black, U.S. Army South chief of humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.

The servicemembers from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States will be part of a humanitarian response package if a disaster would occur, said Army Lt. Col. Richard Somers, Joint Task Force-Bravo Army Forces commander.

"Hopefully a disaster doesn't happen, and we won't be needed," Colonel Somers said. "If a disaster does happen, many of these same people involved in this exercise along with JTF-Bravo would be participating."

The exercise will also be an opportunity for the participating countries to learn from one another and enhance their overall emergency response capabilities, Colonel Black said.

As a result of the exercise, people living in La Mosquita region will also benefit as medical teams from the United States and Central American countries will provide free care to them during the exercise, Colonel Black said.

"The majority of the partner nation participants are trained medical professionals, whether as doctors, nurses or emergency medical technicians. Three members from the Virginia Medical Brigade, a private volunteer organization, are also participating," Colonel Black said. "The villages that will benefit from their expertise more than likely haven't been seen by medical professionals in quite some time, and these visits will provide a great boost for the overall health of the community."

The mission also benefits members from JTF-Bravo as they prepare for the hurricane season.

"JTF-Bravo is the initial response force in this region," Colonel Black said. "So it is an excellent opportunity for JTF-Bravo to exercise our deployment capability and our mission to support humanitarian assistance."