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JTF-Bravo MEDEL sets up shop in local hospital

By Staff Sgt. Austin M. May | Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs | Dec. 7, 2007

COMAYAGUA, Honduras — Doctors, nurses and medical technicians from Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element performed four surgeries at Santa Teresa hospital here Dec. 5.

The mission, known as a Surgical Medical Readiness Training Exercise, is a common occurrence for the Airmen and Soldiers of MEDEL, usually happening twice a week in the towns of Comayagua and La Paz.

"The reason we do these missions is two-fold," said Air Force Capt. Joseph Skinner, an anesthetist deployed to Honduras from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "First, we do them to keep our skills current. Second, we do them to foster relations between us and the local communities."

Captain Skinner said the team is always well-received at the locations they visit. They take their own supplies, which saves the hospital and the patients money, he explained.

The captain said the team has become very flexible in terms of what surgeries they prepare for due to the unpredictable nature of the cases they handle.

"Sometimes we'll think we're going in to work on three gallbladders and a hernia, but we'll end up doing two umbilical hernias on pediatric patients and a circumcision," he explained. He added at times they also perform procedures and provide services that otherwise would not be available locally.

Tech. Sgt. Dennis Montgomery, an operating room technician deployed to Soto Cano Air Base from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, said the Honduran people love these missions because the American doctors usually use modern procedures not taught at the medical school in the country's capital.

While MEDEL performs missions like the one in Comayagua Dec. 5, they occasionally pack thousands of pounds of medical supplies into helicopters from the 1st Battalion-228th Aviation Regiment here and set up clinics in other countries throughout Central America. MEDRETE missions have been recently performed in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.