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JTF-Bravo Medical Element performs first cross-border MEDRETE to help those in need

By Maria Pinel | Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs | May 5, 2016

COPÁN, Honduras — Service members from the Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element traveled to the western region of Honduras and eastern Guatemala to partner with the two nations' Armies and Ministries of Health for a two-day Medical Readiness Training Exercise, in the rural communities of Ostumán in Copán, Honduras, and Jocotán in Chiquimula, Guatemala, April 28 - 29, 2016.

This was the first time the JTF-Bravo MEDEL performed a cross-border MEDRETE, servicing two countries in one deployment, in order to provide as much medical assistance as they could to those who need it most in the region. 

As a result of this joint effort between the U.S., Honduras and Guatemala, more than 900 patients were treated during the two-day medical exercise, providing them with basic health care, preventive medicine and orientation, dental services and medication free of cost. 

Much careful planning goes into putting one of these missions together, especially for this multi-national opportunity, where both Honduran and Guatemalan Armies and regional health representatives played a major role.

"We have personnel from the local Army providing security to the team. JTF-Bravo is participating with their Medical Element, and we also have participation from the local Ministry of Health, so this is a combined exercise," said Dr. Carlos Durón, Honduran Medical Liaison at JTF-Bravo.

Regional leaders and U.S. Embassy personnel also visited the sites for a Civic Leader Engagement, and witnessed first-hand the services provided by the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen from JTF-Bravo.

Mr. Abel Contreras, Governor of Copán and Dr. Doris Waleska Cardona, Regional Public Health Director, took this opportunity to personally thank JTF-Bravo representatives for the support provided.

"On behalf of Honduran people, we are grateful for having you here and taking your time to give to these people who are in real need," said Cardona, as she presented an appreciation award to a JTF-Bravo representative in Ostumán, Copán. 

During day two of the mission, service members convoyed for a one-hour trip across the Honduran-Guatemalan border to arrive at Jocotán, Chiquimula, Guatemala, for an extensive day of medical services.

Given the amount of people expected and the difficult location, the MEDRETE site was split into three different areas - the local church for preventive medicine and health class; a school as the main screening facility, medical providers and pharmacy; and a house across the street for dental services. 

Upon arrival, people from all over the Jocotán municipality had already lined up along the side of the church, waiting patiently under the blazing sun to receive medical attention.

"This location has high rates of malnutrition, especially in children less than five years of age, and also lots of parasitic infections that can lead to anemia. The nearest health center in Jocotán is located about 10 miles from this site, and some patients cannot make it," Durón said. "We are seeing lots of patients that have chronic conditions and acute conditions, that if it hadn't been for this mission would have been left unattended."

While MEDRETES serve to validate the MEDEL's ability to provide care under austere conditions in remote locations, it is also an opportunity for service members to work side by side with their foreign counterparts while providing much-needed medical care, developing partnerships and long-lasting relationships with the Central American nations.