by Capt. David J. Murphy
1st Combat Camera Squadron
8/3/2015 - TRUJILLO, Honduras -- New
Horizons Honduras 2015 training exercise medical personnel have
provided medical support to exercise personnel and Hondurans since June
2015 and will continue to do so until early August.
The 15-person medical team is made up of a general surgeon,
anesthesiologist, operating room nurse, emergency medicine provider,
biomedical equipment technician and 10 emergency medical technicians.
The team's primary mission is to support all exercise personnel with
point-of-injury immediate care before transfer to a main mobile forward
"If someone gets injured here on the construction or well site we can
provide immediate treatment to include self-aid buddy care, and IVs and
intubation," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Milner, 341st Medical
Operations Squadron, 341st Medical Group, out of Malmstrom Air Force
Base, Mo., "and once we stabilize the patient, we can transport them,
via ambulance, to the hospital where they will receive follow-on care."
While the medical team supported all New Horizons personnel, their main
mission was to provide support to the U.S. Air Force Airmen from the
823rd RED HORSE Squadron from Hurlburt Field, Fla., and U.S. Marines
from the 271st Marine Wing Support Squadron from Marine Corps Air
Station Cherry Point, N.C., during the construction of the new
two-classroom schoolhouse in Ocotes Alto and the wells in both Honduras
Aguan and Brisas del Mar.
The team's secondary mission is humanitarian in nature and has involved
medical support to the Hondurans in the Dr. Salvador Paredes Hospital in
downtown Trujillo in both the operating and emergency rooms.
"To date we've probably had about 100 surgical cases and consults and in
the emergency room we've probably seen about 600 patients," said U.S.
Air Force Maj. Norman Zellers, 60th Medical Operations Squadron, 60th
Medical Group medical physician assistant, from Travis Air Force Base,
Calif., "by the time we leave here we should have seen about 800
Zellers is in charge of the emergency room but the team's surgeon,
anesthesiologist and operating room nurse support operating room
"We've done a pretty wide breadth of surgeries at this point," said U.S.
Air Force Maj. Ryan Jones, 56th Medical Operations Squadron general
surgeon from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., "anywhere from amputation to
hernia repair to gall bladder surgery. I find the Honduran people very
grateful for this service that we're providing, it's irreplaceable."
New Horizons medical and hospital personnel are working side by side
during medical activities with their Honduran counterparts not only to
assist one another but also to exchange information.
"I've learned a lot just being here," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman
Valarie Tomme, Air Force Academy medical technician out of Colorado
Springs, Colo., "they do things very differently here than they do in
the states...and I think it's been a great learning experience. The
nurses have been able to help me a lot and teach me different ways of
Besides medical care, the team has also been able to support the
hospital in other ways by lending them the support of their biomedical
equipment technician, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Lopez, 375th
Medical Support Squadron out of Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
"These hospitals don't have a biomedical equipment technician, they
don't really have a facilities maintenance of management office," said
Lopez, "what they have is electrician and maintenance men and air
conditioning technicians to fill in the roles to take care of the
equipment...they do what they can. I'm more familiar with the more
complicated systems...I can take care of anything from a simple blood
pressure machine to an MRI unit and everything in between."
Lopez's primary mission involves supporting the operating room doctors when any of their equipment malfunctions.
"As they perform surgeries I need to be immediately next to them...in
the surgery, helping out or on standby whenever the equipment
experiences a failure...because they have moments when they have a
patient on the table to make decisions to close them up or keep going
and I'm right there as a contingency plan mostly," added Lopez.
The hospital will also receive any leftover supplies that were delivered to support the medical personnel during the exercise.
"I'm very grateful for the New Horizons exercise," said Dr. Salvador
Paredes Hospital Director Melissa Bonegas, "I'm very glad that you have a
surgeon and doctors that were able to see patients and help them out.
I'm also very pleased with the communications people who were able to
help out with electricity and were able to fix the internet. I'm also
very grateful that we were able to donate some paint which will help
better maintain the hospital."
Communication Airmen from the 35th Combat Communications Squadron were
able to repair the hospital's ailing network, bring internet
connectivity to nine offices that hadn't service in more than three
years, and improving connectivity in existing offices.
Despite their being more than 100 people involved in the New Horizons
exercise, and it centering primarily around construction, the number of
reported medical cases has been 140, and none of those cases has been
severe enough in nature to require serious medical attention from the
"Overall this has been a pretty calm to moderate deployment with regard
to medical issues," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Keiyata Styerjames,
633rd Aeromedical Squadron independent duty medical technician out of
Langley Air Force Base, Va., "I'd attribute the small number of medical
issues primarily to the fact that service members are using proper
protective equipment and they are pretty cautious."
Medical team members will begin to redeploy in early August following the exercise's official end.
New Horizons was launched in the 1980s and is an annual joint
humanitarian assistance exercise that U.S. Southern Command conducts
with a partner nation in Central America, South America or the
Caribbean. The exercise improves joint training readiness of U.S. and
partner nation civil engineers, medical professionals and support
personnel through humanitarian assistance activities.