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South and Central American medical missions surge in April-May

AZUA, Dominican Republic -- U.S. Air Force Reserve Capt. Nicholas Duvall, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, extracts a tooth from a patient in the Dental Care section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) 2009 here. Capt. Duvall is among a team of more than 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Domincan residents during this mission. The group left Youngstown Air Reserve Sation, Ohio, April 26 and is scheduled to return May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clinton Kline)

AZUA, Dominican Republic -- U.S. Air Force Reserve Capt. Nicholas Duvall, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, extracts a tooth from a patient in the Dental Care section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) 2009 here. Capt. Duvall is among a team of more than 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Domincan residents during this mission. The group left Youngstown Air Reserve Sation, Ohio, April 26 and is scheduled to return May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clinton Kline)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Carolyn Katrinchak works alongside Dominican Army troops, April 27, 2009, to unload medical supplies from a bus here. Col. Katrinchak, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, is participating in MEDRETE (Medical Readiness Exercise) designed to provide local residents with much needed medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clinton Kline)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Carolyn Katrinchak works alongside Dominican Army troops, April 27, 2009, to unload medical supplies from a bus here. Col. Katrinchak, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, is participating in MEDRETE (Medical Readiness Exercise) designed to provide local residents with much needed medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clinton Kline)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reservists, Lt. Col. Christopher Rugaber and Staff Sgt. Bruce Boretsky, both assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, work in the Optometry section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) here. Patients visiting the eye care specialists were among more than 10,000 Dominican residents expected to receive much needed medical during the mission, which kicked off April 25 and is scheduled to last until May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reservists, Lt. Col. Christopher Rugaber and Staff Sgt. Bruce Boretsky, both assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, work in the Optometry section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) here. Patients visiting the eye care specialists were among more than 10,000 Dominican residents expected to receive much needed medical during the mission, which kicked off April 25 and is scheduled to last until May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reservist Tech. Sgt. Danielle Forkapa hands a prescription to a Dominican resident here in the Pharmacy section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE). Sergeant Forkapa was among a team of more then 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Dominican residents during this mission, which kicked off on April 25 and is scheduled to last until May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reservist Tech. Sgt. Danielle Forkapa hands a prescription to a Dominican resident here in the Pharmacy section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE). Sergeant Forkapa was among a team of more then 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Dominican residents during this mission, which kicked off on April 25 and is scheduled to last until May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - A Dominican woman talks with U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Jesse Cruz, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, within the in-processing section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) here. Maj. Cruz is one of more than 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to over 10,000 residents here on the mission that kicked off April 25 and is scheduled to last until May 8. He is gathering information from the woman so she can receive the care she is seeking. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - A Dominican woman talks with U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Jesse Cruz, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, within the in-processing section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) here. Maj. Cruz is one of more than 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to over 10,000 residents here on the mission that kicked off April 25 and is scheduled to last until May 8. He is gathering information from the woman so she can receive the care she is seeking. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reservist Col. Larry Woods, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, examines a Dominican child in the Family Care section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) here. Col. Woods is a member of a team of more than 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Dominican residents during this mission. The group left Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio on April 25 and is scheduled to return on May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Kilker Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Reservist Col. Larry Woods, assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron, examines a Dominican child in the Family Care section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) here. Col. Woods is a member of a team of more than 30 Citizen Airman providing much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Dominican residents during this mission. The group left Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio on April 25 and is scheduled to return on May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Kilker Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Judith Mates, attached to the 910th Medical Squadron, examines a resident here in the Family Care section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise. Col. Mates is among more than 30 Citizen Airman giving much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Dominican residents during this mission. The group left Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, April 25 and is scheduled to return May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Kilker Jr.)

AZUA, Dominican Republic - U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Judith Mates, attached to the 910th Medical Squadron, examines a resident here in the Family Care section of Dominican Republic Medical Readiness Training Exercise. Col. Mates is among more than 30 Citizen Airman giving much needed medical care to more than 10,000 Dominican residents during this mission. The group left Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, April 25 and is scheduled to return May 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Kilker Jr.)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Air Force medical personnel will engage in 13 deployments for training to Central and South America in the months of April and May, a surge accounting for nearly 40% of the DFT missions scheduled for the year. 

DFTs put Air Force medics, active-duty, guard, and reserve, into remote areas of the region to provide patient care, from dentistry to life-altering surgeries. The medics partner with host nation ministries of health and non-governmental aid organizations to not only provide service, but help identify local needs to better serve the population in the future. 

"We continue to leverage these platforms of medical care to deliver a more enduring effect by strengthening the medical capacity of our partner nations," said Col. Scott Van Valkenburg, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) surgeon general. "We continually assess different regions in regards to individual specialties, working closely with NGOs, local doctors, and ministries of health, to identify local and regional health objectives thereby accomplishing more and more. By building these relationships over the years, we will be able to work in a synergistic and more effective manner- it will allows us to provide targeted quality medical care and have a more sustaining impact." 

Twelfth Air Force plans and participates in 30-35 medical DFTs a year. Nearly 110,000 patients are seen, and 600 surgeries performed in more than a dozen countries. AFSOUTH DFTs are a subset of many other SOUTHCOM medical engagements conducted by other service components such as Continuing Promise 2009, a medical goodwill mission conducted from the USNS Comfort. 

So far, missions have been conducted in Panama, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras. The focus of the missions changes based on the needs of the region. For example, Air Force ear, nose, and throat specialists deployed to Panama, while general medical teams deployed to Jamaica and Honduras. 

Col. Van Valkenburg said without a solid multinational, joint, and total force team, the missions would not be possible. 

"With such high mission density, it is essential that all agencies and units involved communicate and work effectively as one force," he said. "DFTs illustrate how active-duty forces, Guard, and Reserve units from all services, from all over the United States deploy their medical staff to support the same mission. From regional medical centers to smaller clinics, everyone does their part, and we've been very successful."

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