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Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs)

USAF medic attends to a patient during a MEDRETE.

USAF medic attends to a patient during a MEDRETE.

The Medical Readiness Training Exercises, better known as MEDRETEs, are U. S. Southern Command-sponsored readiness training exercises designed to provide humanitarian assistance and free medical care to the people of the host nation, while helping improve the skills of U.S. military medical forces and those of military medical professionals of the host nation. MEDRETEs allow U.S. military medical personnel to perform critical medical skills and execute the pre-deployment, deployment, and redeployment process. The MEDRETE also provides U.S. military personnel the opportunity to work with other militaries, civilian personnel and host national non-governmental agencies. 

The MEDRETE program is one of the premier U.S. engagement efforts in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility, giving American military health care personnel the opportunity to have a positive impact on thousands of people who may not have had any medical care in years. It is also one of the military's more unique and successful training programs, providing invaluable real-world preparation for troops while reaching out to and working alongside partner nations.

Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern), the air and space component to USSOUTHCOM, plans and executes about 30 MEDRETEs in locations throughout the USSOUTHCOM AOR each year. For all U.S. Air Force-lead MEDRETEs in this AOR, AFSOUTH provides approximately one million dollars in planning and executing funds. On average, about 750 patients are seen per day during most AFSOUTH-lead general medicine MEDRETEs.

There are several mission objectives to MEDRETES, including providing U.S. military personnel training in delivery of medical care in austere environments, promoting diplomatic relations between the U.S. and other host nations in the Caribbean and Central and South America; and providing humanitarian and civic assistance via a long-term proactive program. 

These exercises bring together key members of the U.S. and foreign militaries, U.S. Embassy Country Teams, U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's), Host Nation (HN) government agencies and local civilian organizations. These entities work closely to evaluate and select sites that are ideal for providing a positive impact to needy communities. In order to conduct MEDRETEs throughout the Americas, personnel from both active, guard, and reserve components of the U.S. military work side-by-side with their foreign counterparts. 

These counterparts may include: host nation Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, non-governmental organizations, bilingual schools and a variety of community members. 

The following types of MEDRETES are conducted throughout the Americas:

- GENERAL MULTI-MEDICAL SPECIALTIES - two-week MEDRETE expected to provide primary care at remote locations in conjunction with host nation's Ministry of Health. This includes, but is not limited to, preventive medicine education, pediatrics, primary medical care, immunizations, pharmacy services and dental activities including fluoridation, dental extractions, and oral hygiene education.

- SPECIALTY SURGERY TEAM - two-week surgical MEDRETE, with emphasis on, but not limited to, the management of multiple surgical problems in the following specialties: ophthalmology, otolaryngology, orthopedics, hand reconstruction, plastic surgery for cleft lip and palate and burned patients, and urology. Surgical units have the chance to train in a realistic, austere environment, setting up a surgical suite and conducting safe operations on host nation patients in conjunction with host nation physicians.

- DENTAL - two to three day Dental Readiness Training Exercise (DENTRETE) is expected to do preventive dentistry including, but not limited to, fluoride applications, pit-fissure sealant applications on school age population, fast-curing resin applications, implementation of space maintenance, extractions and dental related emergencies.

What are the most common cases attended to during general MEDRETES?
Primary medical care, which includes respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatological issues and tropical diseases; dental care with acute infections, extractions, sealants; as well as preventive medicine education, health assessments, veterinary immunizations and de-worming.

What are the most common cases attended to during specialty MEDRETES? 
- OPHTHALMOLOGY - Cataract, strabismus, reconstructive orbital and lid surgery. 

- UROLOGY-Urethra stricture reconstruction, urinary tract stones, tumors, pediatric congenital urinary tract malformations, trauma, female incontinence. 

- OTOLARYNGOLOGY- Tympanic membrane reconstruction, mastoidectomies to control chronic middle and inner ear infections, hearing aids, trauma surgery.

- PEDIATRIC ORTHOPEDICS- Correcting hip dysphasia, chronic bone infections (osteomyelitis), acute trauma, clubfoot, congenital malformations.

- HAND SURGERY- Acute and old hand injuries including nerve, tendon and bone reconstruction, occupational therapy, congenital hand malformations.

- DENTAL- Crowns, spacers, pediatric dentistry, sealants.

- PEDIATRIC NUTRITION- Nutritional assessments, pediatric care in respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatological and tropical diseases.

- GENERAL SURGERY- Acute trauma, surgical emergencies, gallbladder disease, hernias, gastric tumors, thyroid diseases, tonsillectomies, general surgery cases.

Does the Host Nation's Ministry of Health or any other authorities support the MEDRETEs?
Yes, the Host Nation Ministry of Health provides physicians, nurses, licensed practitioner nurses, technicians, health promoters, space at their clinics and hospitals to evaluate and treat patients, ward admission capabilities, equipment sterilization support, and more. 

What type of support does AFSOUTH receive from the sites where the MEDRETEs are held?
The Host Nation site location provide space at schools, churches or community centers to see patients.  Community leaders help with promotion and crowd control. People within the communities also help carry supplies and set up equipment.

What is the most valuable part of theses medical exercises?
The most valuable part of MEDRETEs for units deploying is that it gives them real deployment and readiness experience, as well as experience operating in austere environments.  For the host nation, MEDRETEs provide health education, disease prevention training, and personal and professional exchanges.