By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
AZUA, Dominican Republic — A group of Airmen from the 21st Medical Group are spending time in the Dominican Republic, March 3-18, 2017, putting their skills to work as part of the Air Force South-run joint exercise Operation New Horizons.
The initial team of 25 members, 15 of whom are from Team Pete, traveled to the Caribbean nation to set up medical and dental facilities to serve the local populace, said Maj. Brandi Foster, 21st MDG medical readiness officer. The event serves as a medical readiness training exercise.
While this is not the first time personnel from Peterson Air Force Base have taken part in the operation, it is the first time a team from the base is serving as the lead group.
“They are doing some fundamental healthcare,” Foster said. “Sharing space and connecting field medical care, providing general medical care, checking ailments and setting up dental assistance. They arrive on site, have a covered facility to provide services and have to make it work with the supplies they are given. It’s a unique situation they’ve probably never experienced.”
Another team, made up of members from other bases, will follow after and provide more advanced types of care, Foster explained. The entire operation lasts about six months.
Beyond the members of the 21st MDG, the team was filled out with Airmen from other locations in order to meet needs that Team Pete personnel could not cover. Specialties like obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, pediatrics, optometry and dermatology are represented.
“There are individuals from all over the U.S. on the team,” Foster said. “Airmen from Peterson, Buckley, Charleston, Vandenberg, Travis, Langley-Eustis, and Lackland Air Force Bases are on the team.”
The facilities were prepared and the team began seeing patients on March 6. They expect business to boom with about 6,000 patients anticipated to come through in 10 days, said Foster.
A typical day during the operation begins at about 8 a.m. and doesn’t stop until around 6 p.m., then cleaning and preparing for the next day can begin.
“They are running some pretty long days,” Foster said.
Not only is the experience unique, it is beneficial to the members who participate. Working with others in a joint-effort scenario provides a level of preparedness that will prove invaluable in the future, Foster noted.
“This is an opportunity to go into a bare base situation and provide basic medical care,” she said.