by Senior Airman Megan Friedl
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
9/9/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The
Air Force is known for developing skills with each Airman they train,
one of which is to support and build relations with local communities.
Tech. Sgt. Mark Lopez, 375th Medical Support Squadron biomedical
equipment supervisor, did his part by spending two months in Honduras
supporting locals at the Dr. Salvador Paredes Hospital in downtown
He and his team also supported New Horizons exercise personnel who
constructed a two-classroom schoolhouse in Ocotes Alto. As a 375th
Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, Lopez ensured
equipment was in good working order. That's not all he did though.
"I went really far out of my scope. I assisted with surgeries, and I even delivered a baby," he said.
The 15-person medical team that Lopez was a part of also worked in many new ways.
They repaired medical equipment, trained partner nation personnel, and developed a preventative maintenance program.
Maj. Norman Zellers, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical physician
assistant, from Travis Air Force Base, California said, "Lopez was
integral to establishing a relationship with the local hospital. His
work repairing the medical equipment and developing a relationship with
the Honduran medical repair department made our presence in the hospital
much more beneficial to the overall humanitarian mission."
New Horizons is a joint humanitarian assistance exercise that the U.S.
launched in the 1980s and is annually done with a partner nation in
Central America, South America, or the Caribbean.
"For me it was just so gratifying," said Lopez. "It felt like I really
made a difference, and I could see firsthand what I'm doing directly
impacted the community."
The experience also gave Lopez more perspective of what his family's
heritage is like. He grew up in Miami, Florida, but his family is from
"I got a little taste of what I want my life to be like after the military," said Lopez. "I want to go back to my roots."
The team was left with a lasting impression of how their actions affected others.
"I will not forget how the local community went out of their way to
thank the United States and their military members for being in the
hospital and seeing Hondurans," said Zellers. "It was touching on many
After returning from his trip to Honduras, Lopez believed the mission helped much more than the Hondurans.
He said, "It not only enriched our relationships with our neighbors, but it enriched our own lives."