News: Health services administrator deploys to Belize to facilitate medical treatment
Story by Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden
BELIZE CITY, Belize - A field grade officer from Air Forces Southern has deployed to Belize in support of the U.S. Southern Command-sponsored New Horizons exercise.
Lt. Col. James Smith, a 16-year Air Force veteran, from Junction, Texas, is in Belize serving as the liaison officer between the Department of Defense and the Belizean Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.
Planning for this exercise, which began in August, has been an all-encompassing mission for the colonel and his planning team.
“As with any exercise, even the best planning requires on-the-spot adjustments and decisions once execution begins,” Smith said. “In my position, I have been given the latitude and scope of responsibility to make tough decisions that have wide effects.”
In his role as a medical liaison officer, Smith has helped to facilitate a significant part of New Horizons exercise better known as MEDRETES (medical readiness training exercises), which are designed to provide humanitarian assistance and medical care to people in the local area, while helping improve the skills of U.S. military medical forces and those of military medical professionals of the host nation.
As a medical administrator, he is dedicated to working side-by-side with the people of Belize and is committed to strengthening friendships during the exercise this year.
“Seeing the impact we can make, not only on a single person, but on an entire country is very rewarding,” said Smith. “The Belizean people are very receptive to our assistance and are a gracious host to all of us.”
There will be multiple medical readiness training exercises in Belize City, Corozal and in areas surrounding Punta Gorda.
During these medical readiness training exercises, teams of medical doctors and specialists with equipment and supplies will provide medical treatment to the local population. The doctors and specialists are comprised of U.S. and Belizean professionals.
New Horizons began in the mid-1980s and is an annual exercise to train military civil engineers and medical professionals to deploy and conduct joint operations. Since then, airmen and members of other services working under U.S. Southern Command have built schools, community centers, provided medical care and much more to form partnerships between the U.S. and Central American, South American and Caribbean nations.