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Despite reduced numbers, final New Horizons MEDRETE a success

  • Published
  • By Capt. David Tomiyama
  • Task Force New Horizons Public Affairs
With only half their medical team and three less days to see patients, the final medical readiness training exercises for New Horizons-Peru 2008 still provided medical care to more than 2,000 Peruvians. 

A 19-man team from the 433rd Medical Group out of Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, treated the patients in the Ayacucho region, Aug. 1-7, as part of New Horizons. New Horizons is a U.S. long-term U.S. Southern Command sponsored program to bring humanitarian assistance to countries in Latin and Caribbean nations. 

The 433rd MDG's team was made up of doctors, a dentist and optometrist, dental technicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacy technicians, and an administrator. The Airmen provided general medical care and diagnosis, dentistry, optometry, pharmaceutical needs and public health education. The team treated patients in Mollepata, Carmen Alto and Quinua over the course of six days. 

The Reserve medical team is no stranger to MEDRETEs having carried out past exercises in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and the Dominican Republic. However, the 433rd MDG was not originally scheduled to be a part of this year's New Horizons. The unit was told in June they were assigned to NH08 when the Army had to pull their team from the exercise due to a last-minute deployment. Not only did they have to fulfill a last-minute requirement, but they were unable to bring their entire team to Ayacucho. 

"It's been a challenge because if you plan for a certain amount of people and days and then its cut, you have to improvise," said Lt. Col. Diana Flores, lead planner and international health specialist. "This unit, with only half there manning, are doing very well. They've been able to be very flexible in seeing patients despite decreased manning and days." 

The short-handed medical team saw 2,373 patients over six days, keeping with the average of the past six other MEDRETEs that have taken placed over two months. 

"The 433rd MDG team has amazed me with the number of patients they saw despite only having a fraction of their team," said Maj. Matt Joganich, task force commander. "It speaks volumes to the quality of the team and the dedication they have to their job." 

Over the course of six days, the team noticed a trend in patients. The most common ailments the team diagnosed are due to dust or severe dental cavities beyond saving. 

"Because of the dust in this area, we saw a lot of upper respiratory problems in adults and runny noses, teary, watery eyes from children." Colonel Flores said. "On the dental side, we primarily did extractions because we weren't equipped to do fillings for cavities. Since Peruvians can't get good hygiene, many times the younger children came in with cavities that needed to be extracted versus being filled." 

The MEDRETEs gave the Reserve Airmen invaluable training. 

"New Horizons put the team in a contingency, deployment type of situation, living out of tents, sleeping on cots and sleeping bags," Colonel Flores said. "Plus it was practicing field medicine; they weren't in a clinic with all the supplies, equipment and lab tests; it was their basic raw skills as a provider to take care of patients." 

All of the team's hard work treating patients was appreciated by the Peruvian people. 

"The people were very, very appreciative," said Colonel Flores. "Many patients said they appreciated us very much for being here." 

During New Horizons - Peru 2008, more than 950 active duty, reserve and guard Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers have deployed on a rotational basis over the course of three months to bring humanitarian assistance to the Peruvian people of Ayacucho. These service members are nearing the end of the construction of three medical clinics, two school houses, a water well, and completing the final three of nine medical missions. 

For more information on New Horizons, visit http://www.12af.acc.af.mil/library/newhorizons.asp.

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