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21st MDG Airmen return from humanitarian, training deployment

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ben Seidl
  • 21st Medical Group
A 10-person team from the 21st Medical Group returned from a two-week medical readiness exercise in San Miguel, El Salvador, July 3.

The El Salvador deployment was part of the ongoing U.S. Southern Command MEDRETEs initiative in Central, South America and the Caribbean. This year, Air Force South will execute 29 MEDRETEs -- enabling vital medical care for more than 100,000 patients. Last year, 106,024 patients were treated and 457 surgeries were completed.

The 21st MDG portion of this exercise began in mid-June and ended just in time for the Independence Day holiday.

"It went very well and was a great experience for all involved," said 1st Lt. Denise Miranda, MEDRETE team member. "We served 6,668 patients in a 10 day time frame."

The team was welcomed home by 21st Space Wing and 21st MDG leadership.

"Our team has done a great job on this deployment providing primary medical and dental care to the men, women, and children of El Salvador," said Col. Mark Allen, 21st MDG commander. "This mission has sharpened our team's clinical and expeditionary skills to support the Global War on Terror while allowing us to support an important diplomatic effort for the United States. We're glad to have our teammates back home just in time for them to enjoy a safe Independence Day holiday with their families and friends."

The environment the team worked in was quite different than the Peterson clinic, but the team adapted to the environment and used equipment of opportunity to provide care, like pulling teeth with a patient sitting in a school desk chair and putting up ponchos to darken a room for optometry work.

"We really pulled together, and everyone realized that it was a team effort," said Lieutenant Miranda. "When providers were not seeing patients, they provided help in the always busy pharmacy. Each night the entire team would help set up medications and supplies for the next day's events or pick up trash in the compound."

It was hard work but team members reported they could see its worthwhile nature in the faces of their patients and in the team work with the host nation.

Tech. Sgt. Kelli Remmert, an optometry technician with the MEDRETE team, reported that during one of the optometry exams, Lt. Col. Richard Eddington, team leader, placed a pair of glasses on a gentleman's face for the first time in his life. She said the look of amazement on his face after gaining the ability to see clearly was one of the most rewarding experiences in her career.

"The locals were very receptive and appreciative to the care provided," said Lieutenant Miranda. "Each day the turn out for each site would increase as word of mouth got out that we were there and able to provide care. On our final full day at our last site, we saw 1,124 patients. We really tried to instill some preventative education to the locals for future care as well as treat their current symptoms."