By Senior Airman Dillon DavisApril 19, 2016
PALO GORDO, Guatelmala -- Medical readiness training exercises organized by the Arizona Medical Detachment with support from multiple countries and organizations, supplied free medical services to Guatemalan nationals in the local area.
"I was the main planner for the medical readiness training exercise," said Sgt 1st Class Jeremiah Jensen, Arizona Medical Detachment noncommissioned officer in charge of operations. "We coordinated with Army South, Arizona National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserves to get the personnel that we needed here to complete the mission. I also had to coordinate with them to get all the equipment and supplies shipped here that we need to accomplish an operation of this magnitude. It took almost a year of preparation to get everything ready for this operation."
The large-scale operation is just one of three total medical readiness training exercise scheduled to take place in Guatemala this year as part of Beyond the Horizon 2016 mission.
"The biggest challenge for us was getting all the resources we needed," said Jensen. "It is very limited in what we can transport all the way out here to Guatemala. We had to rearrange things and get creative to find ways to get as many supplies and equipment to this site as possible."
The logistics of an operation like this begin far in advance and the units have to acquire and transport all of the necessary items from their home station to the medical site.
"Another challenge was the infrastructure," added Jensen. "We had to think outside-the-box to figure out how to maximize the space we were allowed to make this operation work."
Many of these military members have never participated in clinics this size, so they will get additional hands-on experience while also positively affecting the lives of so many in a short period of time.
"This event is huge," said Jensen. "Our unit doesn't really deploy down range so this operation is the biggest training exercise for us. It's amazing to see approximately 8,000 locals get humanitarian aid that they may not have gotten otherwise. We get to see change for the better. We get to give out glasses, provide dental procedures and prescribe necessary medications."
The medical clinic creates a long-lasting effect in the local area, but for some it has an immediate impact.
"A couple years ago, we spent two days trying to get something out of a person's ear," said Jensen. "When we finally got it out, he started crying and we thought maybe we hurt him. It turned out that they were tears of joy because he could finally hear again after six years. It's those stories that make it absolutely worth it to be out here doing this."
This is the 15th year that U.S. Army South has organized and conducted medical clinics and humanitarian operations of this nature and it is the ninth Beyond the Horizon mission to take place.
"This is my third time being involved in a Beyond the Horizons medical readiness training exercise and it's a little different being part of the planning process," said Jensen. "This year's MEDRETE presented more challenges due to the site being farther out from the base, but we were able to accomplish the same effect after planning and coming up with new and creative solutions."
U.S. Army South and the many units involved in this operation were able to make a mission like this happen with assistance from several countries and organizations.
"We put the plan into action with the help and support of the Beyond the Horizon task force and the local Guatemalan government," said Jensen. "In addition to the help from the Guatemalan government and foreign ministries, we had two Canadian medical specialists that helped see patients this year and it was a very unique and rewarding experience to work alongside them to accomplish our mission."
Hosting these medical clinics also allows these organizations the chance to work together to improve medical care and treatment in a region that helps promote longer life spans and educating future children about medical necessity.