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Beyond the Horizon
U.S. Air Force Capt. Nikki Lagendyk, an obstetrician with the 59th Medical Wing based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, performs an eye exam on a Panamanian patient during a medical readiness training exercise for Beyond the Horizon in Veraguas, Panama, April 16, 2013. Beyond the Horizon is a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint and combined field training humanitarian exercise. (U.S. Army photo by/1st. Lt. Harold Williams)
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59th Medical Wing supports Army South exercise in Panama

Posted 4/30/2013   Updated 5/1/2013 Email story   Print story


by Army Capt. Sarah Harris

4/30/2013 - PANAMA -- Airmen of the 59th Medical Wing based out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, were in the municipality of Veraguas, Panama, for the start of the Beyond the Horizon medical readiness training exercise April 16.

BTH 2013 is a U.S. Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals to Panama for training, while providing services to rural communities. Conducted annually, these missions are part of U.S. Southern Command's humanitarian and civic assistance program.

The 11-day medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETE, provided medical and dental care to residents in Cerro De Plata, Los Valles and Calobre. The exercise focuses on key health issues in the area, including children's care, nutritional education, basic dental services, hypertension and eye surgery.

"Our goal is to continue to forge that operating team success between the Air Force and Army," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Randy Ivall, who is serving as the officer in charge of this Panama MEDRETE, "Ultimately, at the end of the day, this also prepares us for future missions as well."

"We're expecting about 8,000 patients total by the end of the exercise," said Ivall. "Between the Soldiers and Airmen, we'll get it done."

The exercise was made possible with joint collaboration from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, the Panamanian Ministry of Health and the Panamanian security forces.

Issues such as medication and supplies arriving on time, as well as the language barrier have been a small challenge for the group.

"Our job is to see and take care of as many people as we can," said Master Sgt. Rhonda Bradley, who is in Panama on her second BTH mission, "Although crowd control and language barriers exist, we're still able to make it work."

The exercise brings together Airmen and Soldiers who are experiencing their first BTH as well as those returning for a second and third time.

"It's been great so far," said Maj. Larissa Weir, an OBGYN here on her first BTH mission. "We converted a school into a temporary clinic, so we are now able to take care of the citizens. I'm really enjoying it."

"The most rewarding experience is the appreciation shown by the citizens," said Capt. Karla Dennard, an OBGYN here on her second BTH mission, "My hope is to be able to promote education and self-care in these young females."

The teams will spend three days in Cerro De Plata, another three days in neighboring Los Valles, and finally five days at the final location of Calobre.

"Numbers are important, but they can't tell the entire story," said Ivall, "That cultural exchange that makes us better officers and noncommissioned officers is invaluable."

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