• U.S. Air Force Capt. Nikki Lagendyk, an obstetrician with the 59th Medical Wing based in 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/Released)

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Nikki Lagendyk, an...

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Nikki Lagendyk, an obstetrician with the 59th Medical Wing based in 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...

  • U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sally Simms with the 59th Medical Wing, based in Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, takes a break from the medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) for Beyond the Horizon to spend time with the children at Cerro De Plata, Panama April 16, 2013. The MEDRETE focused on working alongside Panamian personnel to provide free health care to the people of Cerro De Plata, Los Valles and Calobre. 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/Released)

    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sally Simms with the...

    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sally Simms with the 59th Medical Wing, based in Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, takes a break from the medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) for Beyond the Horizon to spend time with the children at Cerro De...

  • A Panamanian girl smiles as she waits for medical care during a medical readiness training exercise for Beyond the Horizon in Veraguas, Panama, April 16, 2013. Medical assistance was performed by U.S. Airmen with the 59th Medical Wing based out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. 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/Released)

    A Panamanian girl smiles as she waits for...

    A Panamanian girl smiles as she waits for medical care during a medical readiness training exercise for Beyond the Horizon in Veraguas, Panama, April 16, 2013. Medical assistance was performed by U.S. Airmen with the 59th Medical Wing based out of...

  • U.S. Air Force Maj. Larissa Weir, an obstetrician gynecologist with the 59th Medical Wing based at Joint Base San Antnio-Lackland, Texas, tends to a child while the mother receives treatment at the medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) during Beyond the Horizon in Veraguas, Panama, April 16, 2013. The MEDRETE focused on providing basic medical services in the area to include children's health, nutrition education, dental, hypertension and eye surgery to the people of Veraguas and the surrounding areas. 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/Released)

    U.S. Air Force Maj. Larissa Weir, an...

    U.S. Air Force Maj. Larissa Weir, an obstetrician gynecologist with the 59th Medical Wing based at Joint Base San Antnio-Lackland, Texas, tends to a child while the mother receives treatment at the medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) during...

  • U.S. Air Force Capt. Dana Blyth with the 59th Medical Wing from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, shakes hands with a Panamanian patient after providing him with medical care 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/Released)

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Dana Blyth with the 59th...

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Dana Blyth with the 59th Medical Wing from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, shakes hands with a Panamanian patient after providing him with medical care during a medical readiness training exercise for Beyond the Horizon in...

  • U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sally Simms with the 59th Medical Wing, based in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, takes a break from a medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) for Beyond the Horizon to spend time with children at Cerro De Plata, Panama April 16, 2013. The MEDRETE focused on working alongside Panamian personnel to provide free health care to the people of Cerro De Plata, Los Valles and Calobre. 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/Released)

    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sally Simms with the...

    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sally Simms with the 59th Medical Wing, based in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, takes a break from a medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) for Beyond the Horizon to spend time with children at Cerro De Plata, Panama...

Airmen of the 59th Medical Wing, based out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, were in the municipality of Veraguas, Panama, for the start of the Beyond the Horizon medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE), 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 (SOUTHCOM) humanitarian and civic assistance program.

The MEDRETE is an 11-day exercise occurring in Cerro De Plata, Los Valles and Calobre. It focuses on key medical issues in the area to include children's health, nutrition education, basic dental services, hypertension and eye surgery to the people of Veraguas and the surrounding areas.

"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."

Day one of the MEDRETE started slower than expected with approximately 350 citizens showing up. Day two began with a long line formed at the entrance. Due to the first site being much smaller than the others, the projected total for this particular site is only 1,200-1,500 people.

"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."

All of this was made possible by a joint effort of 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 is a combination of airmen and soldiers 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 Cpt. 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."

After the three-day MEDRETE in Cerro De Plata is completed, another will take place in neighboring Los Valles for another three days and finally completing the last location at Calobre in five days.

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

Page last updated Mon April 29th, 2013 at 00:00