JTF-Bravo Deploys Medical Capabilities in Central America

Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo), a task force under U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), deployed its military medical capabilities to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras in April 2022 to strengthen health services in vulnerable or resource-poor areas.

On April 27-28, JTF-Bravo surgeons and SOUTHCOM’s Civil Affairs team, as part of Global Health Engagements (GHEs), conducted a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) to benefit the residents of the municipality of Aguacatán, Huehuetenango department, Guatemala. “The objective of this MEDRETE was to improve the health of at least 500 people through medical consultations, preventive medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy services,” the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala indicated in a statement.

“The medical care U.S. Southern Command conducted in Huehuetenango is an example of U.S. service spirit to bring hope to the most remote communities,” said U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala William Popp. The Guatemalan Army worked in conjunction with U.S. military medics with the Mariscal Gregorio Solares V Infantry Brigade.

“These GHEs focus on providing primary medicine, including health assessments and deworming, dental care with acute infections and extractions,” U.S. Army First Lieutenant Nancy Blum, JTF-Bravo Medical Element field medical officer, told Diálogo. “In addition, they have a strong educational component, both in preventive medicine and dental hygiene.”

On April 22, JTF-Bravo medical officers carried out another MEDRETE in Drake Bay, Puntarenas province, Costa Rica, where 22 professionals provided general and preventive medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, laboratory, vaccinations, examinations, and women’s health services.

“The exercise highlights the opening of a new Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) health clinic in Drake Bay,” the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica said. Specialists from both countries treated more than 379 residents, the Embassy added.

“The impact this has on the health of inhabitants is important. They [JTF-Bravo] offer talks on preventive medicine; dental services; medical triage, where they measure vital signs, body weight and height, to see how they are doing with different pathologies to provide them with medicines and possible treatments,” Dr. Román Macaya Hayes, CCSS executive president, said on the CCSS official website. “It’s a very important mission that solves many health issues, [allows] for cases to be identified, and for medicines to be prescribed in the area.”

The U.S. Embassy’s Office of the Defense Representative (ODR), including U.S. Coast Guard Commander Lawrence W. Tinstman, ODR senior defense official, supported the exercise, providing administrative and translation services to facilitate patient care.

“We partner with the host nation and nongovernmental organizations to contribute vaccines, basic laboratory services, women’s health, behavioral health, optometry, and other medical initiatives,” 1st Lt. Blum said. “The GHEs allow U.S. forces to partner with host nations for military-to-military subject matter expert exchanges and coordinate with government entities, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Agriculture,” among others.

In another MEDRETE, JTF-Bravo doctors treated patients at the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center in Comayagua (CRIC), Honduras, on April 6. Teams of physical therapists, physicians, neuropsychologists, and interpreters from Soto Cano Air Base visit the CRIC three times a month to provide medical services to the local community.

JTF-Bravo medical elements have been conducting GHEs in Honduras since October 1993. Since then, they have executed more than 300 missions and treated more than 326,000 medical patients and 70,000 dental patients throughout the country.