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Unscathed by Hurricane Felix, Patrick medics continue relief ops in Honduras

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- Barely affected by the landfall of Hurricane Felix this week, seven medics currently deployed to Honduras from the 45th Medical Group are continuing operations there.

With the worst part of the storm missing their base at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, the seven medics from Patrick AFB are OK.

"We're spun up and ready to go to Nicaragua, if needed," Lt. Col. Kenneth Russell, a pharmacist deployed from the 45th MDG, said Wednesday in an e-mail.

As part of Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, the 45th Medical Group personnel are filling traditional Army slots performing medical readiness training exercises, which are medical outreaches that treat 500-600 locals daily.

"It gives you an appreciation for the things we have access to in the U.S. in medical care," said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Plowman, laboratory noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "We had folks bring their entire families. Some traveled by foot for five hours to come and see a doctor."

In addition to treating locals with medical care, the unit has also assisted in relief efforts for the earthquake that hit Peru June 24, sending 28 tons of medicine, food, water and medical equipment, according to Staff Sgt. David Kolcun, patient administration division NCOIC.

"It's been great," Kolcun said. "It's a chance to go out in the country and do a humanitarian mission, which is much different than what they're doing in Southwest Asia."

In a more recent relief effort, two 45th MDG personnel participated in a medical readiness training exercise in Usulutan, El Salvador, in late August. Colonel Russell led the 15-person team, which provided medical care to local El Salvadorans for one day. Sergeant Kolcun also participated in the effort.

Colonel Russell said this was an opportunity to do something where you really see the impact on people who need treatment. "This is why I got into the medical field," he said.

The deployment, set to end in October, is leaving these Airmen with some unforgettable memories and appreciation of the privileges that come with living in America.

"It gives you a great appreciation for the things we're allowed to do and have access to food, medical care, clothing. People live here in remote villages and sometimes have to travel on foot for days to get supplies or seek medical help," Plowman said.

(1st Lt. Erika Yepsen, Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Office, contributed to the article)