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U.S. Troops Partner With Costa Rican Officials to Provide Medical Care

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Joel Mease
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2008 – More than 20 servicemembers from Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed to Costa Rica Sept. 23 to provide airlift support and partner with Costa Rican health officials for a medical readiness exercise Sept. 25-27 in two remote villages.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A Costa Rican health department dentist helps a patient in La Pena during a medical readiness exercise with Joint Task Force-Bravo Sept. 25. During the three-day MEDRETE U.S. servicemembers partnered with Costa Rican medical teams to provide care to more than 2,000 patients. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Meas

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

During the three-day exercise, medical professionals from the United States and Costa Rica are providing medical care to an estimated 2,000 patients.

Health officials with the Costa Rican government said the opportunity to work with U.S. servicemembers is very appealing to them.

“This was my first time working with the U.S., and I was very impressed with how organized they are to provide these services,” said Luis Jimenez, a dental assistant with the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social. “It would have been very difficult for us to provide care to these areas without the (airlift JTF-Bravo) provided.”

The terrain in some of the more remote areas of Costa Rica can make it extremely difficult to bring in medical supplies. In the village of La Pena, it might have taken anywhere between 12-14 hours by horse because there are no roads a truck could have taken, Jimenez said.

Because of the difficult terrain, the last time the village of La Pena was seen by a team of medical professionals was about five years ago, said Dr. Mario Lopez, JTF-Bravo liaison officer.

“The access JTF-Bravo provides with its airlift and medical supplies to people in need is just tremendous,” Lopez said. “The support they can provide allows me to do what I love, which is helping people make their lives better.”

Helping people in need and working with another government is what Jason Vargas, a Costa Rican. nurse, also enjoys about participating in these missions.

“It’s very important to me to help these people out. They don’t have many medical services, and it’s not too often we are able to come out to help them,” Mr. Vargas said. “The support (JTF-Bravo) provides is very helpful and allows us to provide care much faster than we would have.”

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Joel Mease works in the Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs office).

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