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U.S. servicemembers partner with Costa Rica to provide airlift, medical care

A dentist with the Costa Rican health department helps a patient in La Pena during a medical readiness exercise with Joint Task Force-Bravo Sept. 25. During the three-day MEDRETE U.S. servicemembers partnered with Costa Rican medical teams to provide care to more than 2,000 patients. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Mease)

A dentist with the Costa Rican health department helps a patient in La Pena during a medical readiness exercise with Joint Task Force-Bravo Sept. 25. During the three-day MEDRETE U.S. servicemembers partnered with Costa Rican medical teams to provide care to more than 2,000 patients. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Mease)

Army Maj. Robert Price, Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element, checks a patient who is experiencing a sore throat during a medical readiness exercise Sept. 25 in La Pena, Costa Rica. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Mease)

Army Maj. Robert Price, Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element, checks a patient who is experiencing a sore throat during a medical readiness exercise Sept. 25 in La Pena, Costa Rica. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Mease)

LAUREL, Costa Rica -- More than 20 servicemembers from Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed Sept. 23 to provide airlift and partner with Costa Rica health officials for a medical readiness exercise Sept. 25-27 in two remote villages.

During the three-day MEDRETE, medical professionals from the United States and Costa Rica will provide medical care to an estimated 2,000 patients.

Health officials with the Costa Rican government said the opportunity to work with U.S. servicemembers is very appealing to them.

"This was my first time working with the U.S., and I was very impressed with how organized they are to provide these services," said Luis Jimenez, a dental assistant with the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social. "It would have been very difficult for us to provide care to these areas without the (airlift JTF-Bravo) provided."

The terrain in some of the more remote areas of Costa Rica can make it extremely difficult to bring in medical supplies. In the village of La Pena, it might have taken anywhere between 12-14 hours by horse because there are no roads a truck could have taken, Mr. Jimenez said.

Because of the difficult terrain, the last time the village of La Pena was seen by a team of medical professionals was about five years ago, said Dr. Mario Lopez, JTF-Bravo liaison officer.

"The access JTF-Bravo provides with its airlift and medical supplies to people in need is just tremendous," Dr. Lopez said. "The support they can provide allows me to do what I love, which is helping people make their lives better."

Helping people in need and working with another government is what Jason Vargas, C.C.S.S. nurse, also enjoys about participating in these missions.

"It's very important to me to help these people out. They don't have many medical services, and it's not too often we are able to come out to help them," Mr. Vargas said. "The support (JTF-Bravo) provides is very helpful and allows us to provide care much faster than we would have."

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