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IHS Division, building partnerships in SOUTHCOM through healing hands

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Heather Redman
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Imagine if you will trekking through the Andes mountains in Peru to provide public health support to individuals with infections rarely seen in the U.S., or setting up tents in the jungles of Columbia to provide dental care. Together with our partner nations, these are some of the challenges that Airmen assigned to the International Health Specialist (IHS) Division, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) are faced with.

The IHS Division consists of a cadre of military medical professionals who deliver medical support by combining cultural and linguistic proficiency with regional medical expertise. As a division of Air Forces Southern Command Surgeon Directorate they work on building partnerships and building partner nation capacity in health related fields throughout the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of responsibility.

Maj. Brian Neese a physician in the IHS Division assigned to the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) said,
"By far, the building of personal relationships with our Partner Nation colleagues is the most rewarding part of our deployments. There are many fascinating differences to learn about between our two cultures, but much commonality as well that pushes us towards the same goals."

The primary goal of the IHS Division is to strengthen global medical capabilities for disaster response and healthcare management through subject matter expert exchanges.

IHS Division works directly with partner nations and collaborates with non-government organizations as well as academic institutions to help train medial professional and increase the amount of care that is provided. At times they also work directly with host nation civilian populations to provide medical, dental, and public health support.

When working in an IHS Division, education goes both ways.

Maj. Daisy Huisentruit a nurse in the IHS Division assigned to the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) said, "Among the things I have learned while working alongside professional medical personnel is how they improvise with limited resources in order to save a life the best they can. I have also learned that they are extremely limited in remote regions they have to rely on their assessments, patient signs and symptoms."

Members of the IHS Division often work in conditions that vary greatly depending on the country and the mission. Sometimes they are set up in hotels and sometimes they work out of tents set up in remote villages. Although deployment locations are unpredictable, the IHS Division often walk away with a greater knowledge and respect for the people and the culture that they work in.

Staff Sgt. Amy Easton a public health specialist in the IHS Division assigned to the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) said, "Because of the various medical readiness training exercises throughout the country, I was required to drive several hours each day to get the mission completed. I was pleasantly surprised that both countries were so extremely hospitable. Being exposed to new cultures and languages in person is probably the best aspect of working with our partner nations."

The IHS Division's next engagement is scheduled in spring 2014, were they will be participating in New Horizons Belize.

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