News: US ambassador visits medical readiness training exercise
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Walter Van Ochten
TORTI, Panama - The Ambassador of the U.S. Jonathan Farrar was in the city of Torti in the providence of Panama visiting the service members of Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 here, June 4.
Beyond the Horizon 2013–Panama is a humanitarian and civic assistance exercise deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Panama for training and to provide humanitarian services. The purpose of BTH 2013 Panama is to conduct civil-military operations, including humanitarian civic assistance and medical/dental/engineering support, to show U.S. support and commitment to the Panamanians.
The medical team is working together with the Ministry of Health here in Torti, giving free medical services to Panamanians at a Medical Readiness Training Exercise held here.
“A big part of what we’re doing here is working together between the U.S. and Panama; U.S. doctors, Panamanian doctors, U.S. engineers, Panamanian counterparts. We are trying to provide services outside of the main cities to people who don’t have access normally to it. It is part of trying to expand the network of the government of Panama’s ability to deliver services to the people. That is what we are here for today,” said Farrar.
Doctors and medical caregivers from the U.S. and Colombia joined up with their colleagues from Panama to provided basic medical services of general medicine, dentistry, gynecology, veterinarian, optometry, pediatrics and medications from a pharmacy.
“What you see here are the Americans learning from the Panamanians and vice versa. We are serving as force multipliers here because we are bringing doctors, we’re bringing dentists, and we’re bringing medicine [to augment what] the government of Panama wouldn’t have normally,” said Farrar.
Dr. Alberto Cevallos, a planner for this region of Panama, said of the U.S. effort here, “Beyond the Horizon-2013 along with the Health Ministry and the United States Embassy, is a program that comes to provide medical services such as general medicine, odontology, gynecology and veterinary. They come to support the programs that our health system has. We have provided, along with the United States Embassy and the South Command, 10 days of assistance. Five days have been in the community of Cañitas, which happened last week, and five days in the community of Torti, which is happening right now. They have provided vaccines to citizens as well as vaccines to animals such as dogs, cats, and cattle. The most beneficial service has been optometry; many citizens were given glasses to correct both nearsighted and farsighted issues, resulting in a better quality of life for them.”
The ambassador’s visit had an impact on the Panamanian patients and medical workers and U.S. service members alike.
Sgt. John Minarchek, a medic from the 256 Combat Support Hospital out of Twinsburg, Ohio, said of his meeting the ambassador, “It was actually very nice. I was on the rotation before this so to have them come down this time around was very nice and everything is a very much of an honor and I appreciate it because it shows how much he cares too. They’re actually here to experience what we’re experiencing with helping the people of the area.”