Members of the 42nd Medical and Dental support squadron, from Montgomery’s Maxwell Air Force Base have spent the month of June taking part in a medical training exercise (or MEDRETE) in the Republic of Suriname. The exercise not only sharpened the team’s medical expertise, but impacted over 6,000 patients in need of medical attention, according to Lt. Col. James Barber, the mission’s commander.
The team included 11 men and women from Maxwell Air Force Base who performed an array of medical tasks, from pulling teeth to filling prescriptions.
“The MEDRETE was developed to enhance relationships with countries that are medically underserved,” Barber said. “Our team consisted of veterinarians, general practitioners, optometrists,dermatology, pediatrics, dentists and pharmacy techs.”
Even though the exercise called for volunteers, Barber didn’t have any problem filling the spots.While the trip was rewarding for each volunteer, it was also quite the culture shock.
“Everyone on the team volunteered to come on the trip and we had more volunteers than spots available,” Barber said. “You quickly realize everything you take for granted stateside, from potable water, to the local steakhouse, to a safe place to exercise outside. Everyone on the team enjoyed delivering much needed healthcare to the Surinamese population. The lines for care wrapped around the tents we had established to protect them from the elements.”
Protecting them from the elements was no easy task. Suriname experiences the majority of its yearly rainfall during May and June according to the U.S. Department of State website, and this year wasn’t any different.
“It rained everyday and the temperature had to reach the mid 90′s,” Barber said. It never deterred those waiting in line and being able to deliver the care they needed was the most enjoyablepart of the trip.”
Despite inclement weather, Barber said that the mission was a huge success.
“We definitely achieved the goals of this trip. We’ve seen over 6,000 patients who would otherwise not have had care provided. Our group was dedicated, professional and everyone excelled at their assigned tasks as well as stepped outside their comfort zone,” Colonel Barber said. “I think everyone would volunteer for the next trip if they could.”
Mr. John Henry, The mission’s planner, agreed that the mission was not only a huge success, but also very rewarding.
“The most rewarding part of these exercises is pulling a group of professionals together from multiple locations and coming together as a team to complete our mission,” Mr. Henry said. “Seeing the patients leave with a smile after being treated, talking to them and learning the culture and how they live makes the whole trip a success.”
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