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    A Little Bit of Utah Goes a Long Way


    Photo By Sgt. Scott Wolfe | U.S. Army Lt. Col. Marcus Blackburn, a pediatrician with the Utah National Guard...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Scott Wolfe 

    128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    One of the tenets of Beyond the Horizon, a recurring U.S Army South mission to Central America, focuses on building better relations with host nations through civic and humanitarian assistance, while giving reservists a chance to train in a deployed environment.

    Soldiers from the Utah National Guard Medical Command and the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment are helping to further that goal this year in Belize by participating in the exercise between March and July 2017.

    In the task force headquarters element, Utah Guardsmen are staffing the medical planner, surgeon and preventive medicine officer positions, and the medical logistics and medical operations noncommissioned officers.

    Maj. Samantha Madsen, the task force’s medical planner, has been central to preparing each of the three medical readiness training exercises (MEDRETEs) throughout the BTH 2017 humanitarian mission.

    “You take your ideas and your concepts, and you visualize your setup, identifying your stations, areas and footprint,” Madsen said about how she plans each health event.

    “Then you take the input from your non-governmental organizations, key (civic) leaders and local medical people, and you start to include their concepts. The key thing I take away from these medical engagements is that you just have to adapt and change based off of their level of involvement.”

    Sometimes there was little NGO or outside support available, and the rotational staff assigned to run a health engagement was on its own. Such was the case for the Utah National Guard MEDCOM, which had 30 Soldiers on the ground in Ladyville, running the first medical event. MEDCOM administered care in the areas of general and family health, pediatrics, geriatrics, dentistry, optometry and women’s health.

    Lt. Col. Marcus Blackburn, a pediatrician with Utah MEDCOM, said there are always kinks to work out of the system when you are the first of anything. His emphasis, and definition of success, for these kinds of overseas engagements is based in a few very simple questions.

    “At the end of the day did I help someone? Did I make (someone’s) life better?”

    While assigned as a pediatrician for his rotation, Blackburn helped wherever he could. A patient came in complaining about a loss of hearing, and he was initially asked to assist but then asked to take over the patient’s care.

    Blackburn followed up some basic questions and a quick examination with a gentle probing of the man’s ear canal. The explorations were rewarded with a piece of cotton recovered far inside of the auditory canal.

    When Blackburn asked the man if his hearing was any better, the patient was so elated to regain his hearing that he cried tears of joy.

    “Did you see him?” Blackburn said, grinning from ear to ear. “He heard me when I took it out. He heard me. Did you see his face? This is why I’m here. This is why I do it.”

    Keeping each MEDRETE prepared with all the necessary equipment for examinations of this kind and others is not a simple task. In this case, it fell to Staff Sgt. Jonathan Zimmerman, a medical supply technician, who fulfills the same purpose in Utah’s Medical Command. While the position is the same, the job Zimmerman is doing during BTH 2017 has been quite different from what he’s experienced in the Utah MEDCOM.

    “This has been a great learning experience for me, learning in a CSH (Combat Support Hospital) environment, like the medical engagements. This is a field environment versus an established facility like Medical Command,” he said.

    As the task force medical logistics tech, he also supplied the troop medical clinic located on the headquarters operations and living area.

    “Part of my mission was working hand in hand with the Alabama and Wyoming folks,” Zimmerman explained. The Alabama National Guard staffed the TMC and the Wyoming National Guard ran the second medical engagement. “I purchased and ordered all the items they needed to do their jobs,” he said. “We all work off of each other.”

    The Utah Guard also provided the majority of the public affairs positions for BTH 2017. Soldiers from the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment filled the two duration roles of public affairs officer and public affairs operations sergeant, as well as eight out of 12 rotational positions for the exercise.

    Sgt Timothy Beery, a broadcast journalist with the 128th MPAD, said the public affairs teams have been able to use multiple platforms to get out their messages and tell the Army story.

    “We've been able to put out messages on the radio and our stories on Facebook telling people here and back home about the medical services at these events. We’ve also had the opportunity to appear on Belizean television and discuss each of the projects here at Beyond the Horizon, from the medical events to the construction projects.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Whitney C. Houston, a photojournalist in the 128th MPAD, here during the second MEDRETE, was impressed by the amount of cooperation the medical engagements produced during his rotation.

    “It was cool to see all the different pieces come together to achieve the same goal and treat an amazing amount of people,” said Houston.

    Beery agreed, adding that the job of the public affairs team is to get the word out about the hard work Soldiers have been doing during BTH 2017. The public affairs section, through social media alone, reaches between 20-35,000 people weekly that are interested in what the U.S. presence is accomplishing in Belize.

    “With what we have been able to accomplish through Facebook and radio, telling people about what we are here for, it makes you feel good to see all of the people at the clinic. Looking at the numbers, it really shows that we are reaching our goals,” said Beery.

    Utah has had a large impact on Beyond the Horizon 2017. In Ladyville alone, over 3,500 people were able to seek medical assistance. Many of them received care that they otherwise wouldn’t have, or could not afford. There were 5,400 seen in San Ignacio, and in Dangriga, there were 7800 people seen. The turnout from all three medical events is over 16,000 people.

    During Beyond the Horizon 2017, the Utah National Guard has furthered the U.S. Army South goal of training Soldiers in their proficiencies. It has assisted greatly in bringing news of our mission and our dedication to our relationship with the people of Belize.



    Date Taken: 06.06.2017
    Date Posted: 06.06.2017 17:53
    Story ID: 236575
    Location: LADYVILLE, BZ 

    Web Views: 191
    Downloads: 2