TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS - --
A team of five Airmen, two with a special experience identifier earned through the International Health Specialist (IHS) program, traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to work side-by-side with their Honduran air force counterparts during a subject matter expert exchange here, April 3.
Airmen with an IHS certification were able to provide diversified international skills and knowledge of military and civilian health disciplines used to facilitate the five-day engagement by enabling flight medicine knowledge to be shared across a language barrier, which helps strengthen partnerships.
"Having an IHS identfier allows you to be like an ambassador," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Diego Torres, Detachment 4, 375th Operations Group, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "It allows you to better interact with your counterparts. You're a step ahead of every development phase because you know what is needed and you know how to present that information and provide it so the mission can be successful."
Communicating effectively and being culturally aware while conducting missions overseas can be a challenge, but Airmen with an IHS SEI provide a unique capability to ensure smooth execution of missions abroad.
"I think it's important whenever they're putting together missions that they take a look at us and say 'hey he has an IHS designator, he has these capabilties,' and they can tailor the teams specifically to the needs required for the mission," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ricardo Sequeira, 628th Medical Operations Support Squadron and 14th Airlift Squadron Flight Doctor, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. "It really is a beneficial tool the Air Force can use to increase mission efficiency."
Earning an IHS designator has also helped positively influence Sequeira's career.
"It identifies certain capabilities that a person has," said Sequeira. ""Usually it's some kind of language proficiency and having an interest in global health. That special experience identifier is really a door opener, it really opens up a lot of opportunities."
One of the doors it has opened for Sequeira was the opportunity to support this exchange here, and share knowledge and experiences with his Honduran counterparts, all while expanding on partner nation capacities.
"Today was fantastic," said Sequeira. "I was really impressed with how warm the people were. It was really like coming to meet old family members. They're just incredibly open, ready, and anxious to learn from us and teach us."
Sequeira's commander, Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Neese, 628th MDOS commander, hopes that he will walk away from the experience with a new outlook.
"I hope he understands the importance of the IHS program," said Neese. "The importance of having people in our military who have the capability to do cross cultural medicine, be experts in global health, and to leverage that for security cooperation. We have a lot to learn from them in regards to how you make the most with what you have because i'll tell you right now Honduras is doing that. I hope he makes a friend, a friend for a career, a friend for life."