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Airman treats sick in Honduras

EL HORNO, Honduras -- An Airman from the 45th Medical Group was among about 40 American and Honduran servicemembers who traveled from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, to the village of El Horno to provide medical care to the locals. 

Pharmacy Technician Staff Sgt. Natasha Johnson was part of the Medical Readiness Training Ex-ercise, or MEDRETE. 

"Currently there are seven of our 45th Space Wing medics deployed to Honduras. Many of them have been a part of a MEDRETE mission like the one Sergeant Johnson went on," said Col. Florence Valley, 45th Medical Group commander. 

"They are using their skills every day to help those in need improve their quality of life. I am so proud of all of them." 

The village is atop a nearby mountain with 5,000 feet elevation. To drive there, it takes nearly three hours along a rugged mountain pass, which is sometimes washed out and impassable during the rainy season. For this reason, the team took the seven-minute flight via helicopter instead, maximizing their time and ensuring safe transport of personnel and the 650 pounds of Class VIII medical supplies. 

Planning took approximately 30 days, said Army Maj. (Dr.) Richard Malish, the officer in charge of this mission and the Medical Element flight surgeon. 

El Horno, which translates to "the oven," is home to approximately 450 people. Even more people traveled by foot from other villages when they heard the Americans were providing medical care and medicines for them. The two-day total for this mission was 1,072 patients. 

Medical services offered included health screenings, preventative medicine, general medical and dental care, pharmacy services and a cervical cancer screening. Doctors from the Honduran Ministry of Health also attended the MEDRETE and facilitated the medical care alongside the American doctors, nurses and technicians. 

The patients, who were standing in line before the team even arrived, were first greeted and given a preventative health briefing, which consisted of information on basic food and personal hygiene. 

After the preventative medicine class, nurses took a brief medical history and assessed their condition. Children and pregnant females were given priority, along with those who traveled the greatest distance to see the doctors. 

"This is definitely a life-changing experience to see how other cultures live," said Sergeant Johnson. "It gives me a greater respect for everything I have. This is one of the best experiences I've had in Honduras. I wanted to come and help out any way I could. If I can spend my holiday helping someone else's health, I definitely would." 

Aside from the personal satisfaction of helping people in need, the team members gained valuable training from this exercise. By visiting such a remote area, they were able to gain first-hand experience, and they are now better prepared to deploy to other regions of Central America for disaster relief and provide humanitarian assistance. 

Information for this article was provided by Airman David Dobrydney, 45th SW Public Affairs.