By Maj. Olha VandergriffJune 6, 2019
CHILANTA, Guatemala -- Brightly-colored clothing surrounded the team as the people in a small town of Chilanta learned more about the upcoming medical event. Trust is a key part of any relationship especially when one is strengthening long-standing partnership between two nations. A team of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers walked through the neighborhoods of Chilanta and interacted with the citizens of Guatemala. They shared the news about a free medical event which will take place in their city on June 6 during operation Beyond the Horizon 2019.
"We went into the city of Chilanta to pass out the flyers so that the local population knows about the medical exercise. It will provide free medicine, free vision, dental, physicals for adults and kids and women's physicals as well," said Staff Sgt. Erica Briseno, a human resources sergeant with 101st Information Operations Battalion out of Austin, Texas. "It's important that they know we are here. I feel like we are doing something good here and it has a big impact in the city of Chilanta."
The medical event is a collaborative effort between the Guatemalan military and the U.S. military during operation Beyond the Horizon. A team consisting of Guatemala doctors, nurses, and dentist will set up in the Chilanta town center alongside with U.S. Army medical professionals. They will provide medical services to men, women, and children of Chilanta. Adults and children initially expressed tentative curiosity in the event, but as they learned more, that curiosity quickly turned into gratitude.
Beyond the Horizon is an annual exercise designed to build partner nation capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. The relationships built and sustained through this exercise demonstrate the ability of the U.S. and regional partners to access and execute disaster relief activities throughout Central America.
"Some of the locals are embracing us and some are timid, but once the linguists help explain what we will be doing, they are approaching us, and they are very thankful," Briseno said.
Staff Sgt. Garrett Lund, a counterintelligence specialist with 300th Military Intelligence Brigade out of Orem, Utah enjoys the feeling of comradery. "I volunteered to come. It's people helping people." Lund said.
Lund, who lived in Mexico during a missionary trip as a child also said that interacting with the people is a great way to practice his Spanish and learn more about each other.
The medical event serves as a training opportunity for U.S. military doctors and medics, while they are assisting the team from Guatemalan military. "I like engaging with people and seeing smiles on their faces once they learn about services available to them," said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony France, an information technology specialist with the 101st. "It's something that they may not had access to before."