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Airmen help thousands, enhance skills in Guatemala

  • Published
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Seven Airmen assigned to the 22nd Medical Group recently participated in medical readiness training in La Blanca, Guatemala, May 23-June 2, providing healthcare to approximately 8,500 people.

The Airmen worked with other Department of Defense personnel, as well as Reserve Officer Training Corps students and Guatemalan and Trinidad and Tobago military and civilians.

Those who participated in the MEDRETE not only helped thousands of people, but increased their own skills and knowledge as well.

“The main mission is to make sure medical personnel are trained in the event of a real-world deployment,” said Tech. Sgt. Carlos Espitia, 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron dental lab NCO in-charge. “With that, we incorporate the humanitarian side of it. We look for a place where people actually need our services.”

The patient care portion of the exercise lasted almost two weeks, but teams were on the ground a week in advance to prepare. Optometry, dental, pediatrics, family medicine, women’s health, dermatology and pharmacy services were provided to patients.

“We had patients where [the care] just changed their lives,” said Espitia. “There was one lady who hadn’t been able to see anything in 20 years and she walked out with 20/25 vision. We had some who just sat there and cried for a minute because it was so life changing.”

While providing care to patients, military members performed their jobs with limited resources in conditions much different than they’re used to.

“I think this was a great opportunity for the doctors to see a little bit of something different and work with just the basics,” said Espitia. “It puts their knowledge to the test because they don’t have all the equipment or the tests to run; it’s just what they know and what they can do with what they have there.”

After taking part in the exercise, McConnell Airmen gained experience that can help them in both day-to-day operations and in future deployments.

“This gave us an opportunity to get out there and actually do some of the things we’ve trained for that we may not have had the opportunity to do yet,” said Maj. Robert Carlsen, 22nd AMDS optometry flight commander. “It was a good experience. We work with a really healthy population here so to be able to get out there and actually practice the medicine was unique and rewarding.”