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SOUTHCOM’s JTF-Bravo and Honduran Military Provide Medical Services to Remote Populations

SOUTHCOM’s JTF-Bravo and Honduran Military Provide Medical Services to Remote Populations

By Geraldine Cook
April 11, 2016

The joint effort provided health and dental services to 1,019 civilians and is part of U.S. Southern Command’s ongoing commitment to support its partner nations in Central America.

The Medical Element of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) helped provide health services to the civilian population in Honduras by participating in a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE)
in collaboration with the Honduran Army, Honduras’s Ministry of Health and the Red Cross in the department of Cortés. The MEDRETE, which took place February 18th-19th, is part of SOUTHCOM’s commitment to support its Central American partner nations.

“Through MEDRETEs, JTF-Bravo validates its expeditionary medical readiness, the ability to deploy to remote areas, and also to provide care to the local population,” U.S. Army Captain Jana Grimsley, the campaign’s commander and a registered nurse with the Medical Element, told Diálogo
. “JTF-Bravo, through collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Honduran Military, also increased partner capacity building and strengthened host nation relationships.”

Preventive medical care

JTF-Bravo’s Medical Element and the Ministry of Health provided preventive health services to 1,019 residents while the Honduran Army’s Third Infantry Battalion assisted by providing security. The physicians and nurses who participated in the MEDRETE also carried 157 cataract screenings, 15 immunizations, 36 Pap Smears, 10 HIV tests/counseling sessions, 88 preventive dentistry sessions, and 23 family planning sessions.

JTF-Bravo provided hygiene education and vitamins to patients, while a U.S. medical team was on site to conduct basic surgeries, which included removing a patient’s gallbladder. “This area was chosen because it was ranked at the top in the Ministry of Health’s priority list for Puerto Cortés,” Capt. Grimsley explained. “Authorities also chose this location because it’s close to the border with Guatemala, and it’s a region where the civilian population has many medical needs.”

The Ministry of Health conducted home fumigations to prevent the spread of the mosquito, a carrier of the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses
. They also vaccinated animals to protect them from rabies. The Red Cross facilitated communication between JTF-Bravo personnel and the patients who traveled long distances – hundreds of kilometers in some cases – to attend the MEDRETE.

MEDRETE in Gracias a Dios

Cortés has not been the only beneficiary of a MEDRETE. On January 28th, residents of the village of Palacios, in the municipality of Juan Francisco Bulnes in the department of Gracias a Dios, also benefited from a SOUTHCOM Medical Brigade that was supported by the Honduran Armed Forces. More than 800 patients “benefited from medical care in general medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics, as well as dental care,” Honduran Army Infantry Colonel Juan Rubén Girón Reyes, the Commander of the Policarpo Paz García Task Force, told Diálogo

For this humanitarian campaign, the Eleventh Infantry Battalion brought a medical team to Juan Francisco Bulnes, which is in the community of Ibans. Medical personnel provided deworming services for Miskito children and authorities provided civilians in Nueva Jerusalén, also in Gracias a Dios, with information about water purification techniques.

Honduran authorities chose Nueva Jerusalén because the Ministry of Health had designated it as a low-coverage area.
“Studies were carried out showing that the residents of the village of Palacios lack medical care or a nearby location to seek such care,” Col. Girón said.

The Eleventh Infantry Battalion, the Ministry of Health, and the Red Cross cooperated to provide medical and dental care to civilians. Authorities also provided “free medications for the treatment of their general health,” Col. Girón added.

Enhancing cooperation

Joint humanitarian campaigns allow the Honduran Armed Forces to raise their levels of engagement with friendly nations and strategic partners, Col. Girón stated. “The Armed Forces of Honduras positively benefit through the respect and fulfillment of the agreements that have been signed.”

Three more campaigns in Gracias a Dios are scheduled for April. Residents in the municipality of Sirsitara will be assisted by the Fifth Infantry Battalion, while the civilian population in Puerto Lempira will be helped by the General Policarpo Paz García Joint Task Force. Personnel from the Naval Base in Caratasca, in northeast Gracias a Dios departmnet, will take care of patients in the area of Barra de Patuca, according to Col. Girón.