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Sailors bring free medical care to Ayacucho, Peru

  • Published
  • By Capt. David Tomiyama
  • Task Force New Horizons Public Affairs
U.S. military doctors in Peru are working long days throughout the Ayacucho region to bring free medical care to the people of Peru, as well as a favorable and lasting impression. 

Thirty Sailors from the U.S. Navy are working over 10 days to treat an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 Peruvian patients as part of the second phase of New Horizons - Peru 2008 Medical Readiness Training Exercises, July 21 to 31. 
The Sailors are deployed to Peru from Operational Health Support Unit - Great Lakes, Ill., one of two Reserve Field Units in the entire Navy, and are leading MEDRETEs at San Juan Bautista, Cobadonga and Tambillo as part of their annual training. 

The Peruvian people will have the opportunity to receive basic medical care including diagnosis, pharmacy services, dental exams and optical services. 

During the first two days of the exercise, the OHSU team has found the most common ailments are rotted teeth, stomach worms, and a basic need for glasses, which the medical team is prepared to care for thanks to donations of prescription glasses from the Texas Lions' Club. 

"On the medical side, it's mainly simple aches and pains; ailments all the way to infections that we're able to cure with the pharmacy supplies that we're able to give them," said Lt. Bill Parthun, assistant officer-in-charge and supply officer. 

On the first day of their medical mission, the team treated 404 patients, but by the second day, outpatient numbers ballooned to 599. When the OHSU team arrived early that morning, a long line of patients had already formed. 

"The one family that was in line this morning told us they got here at 4 a.m. so they could be first in line for the 8 a.m. opening," said Cmdr. Rose Korson, OHSU officer-in-charge and pediatric nurse practitioner. 

For these Sailors, being able to travel to another continent to help people in need is a rewarding experience and makes the annual training a desirable one. The unit has done MEDRETEs in Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Korea and Thailand. The unit is also scheduled for future exercises in the Dominican Republic and Columbia. 

"A lot of our folks, the dentists, optometrists, doctors and medical providers, do this every day but not to the point where they can see such an impact on people in such a short time," said Lieutenant Parthun. "That's what makes it so rewarding that you can see the immediate benefit." 

The hard work and dedication to help people has left a lasting image on the Peruvian people. 

"The people want us here and they're open to anything we can offer them," said Commander Korson. "They don't have great healthcare and so they think that U.S. healthcare is going to be better and there excited to see the American doctors." 

Previously, Air Force medics carried out three-day medical missions in the towns of Yanamilla, San Cristobal and Chiara in late June. More than 4,800 Peruvians received free medical attention over the course of those nine days. 

The Air Force will support the final phase of medical missions July 29 in Mollepata, Aug. 1 in Carmen Alto and finish Aug. 5 in Quinoa. 

New Horizons is an annual U.S. Southern Command sponsored program that brings humanitarian aid to Latin and Caribbean nations. Servicemembers from the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army working with the Peruvian military, constructed three medical clinics, two schoolhouses, a well and nine medical missions for the Peruvian people of the Ayacucho region. More than 950 Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers are scheduled to rotate through New Horizons during the three-month mission. 

For more information about New Horizons, visit