Navy MEDRETE Team Brings Hope and Health to Nicaraguan Village

Written by  Journalist 1st Class Vance Youmans

- Published - March 14, 2005

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Los Limones, Chinandega, Nicaragua (March 8, 2005) -- Captain Michael O?Connor uses a stethoscope to listen for abnormal breath sounds from a young Nicaraguan boy during a physical examination. Over 10 days, a Navy Operational Health Support Unit will treat up to 5,000 people at three different sites throughout rural Chinandega, Nicaragua as part of New Horizons 2005. New Horizons is a joint-combined services engineering and humanitarian aid mission that will see the construction of four schools and two medical clinics in Nicaragua.

Official US Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Brian Brannon

Los Limones, Chinandega, Nicaragua (March 8, 2005) -- Captain Michael O?Connor uses a stethoscope to listen for abnormal breath sounds from a young Nicaraguan boy during a physical examination. Over 10 days, a Navy Operational Health Support Unit will treat up to 5,000 people at three different sites throughout rural Chinandega, Nicaragua as part of New Horizons 2005. New Horizons is a joint-combined services engineering and humanitarian aid mission that will see the construction of four schools and two medical clinics in Nicaragua.

Los Limones, Chinandega, Nicaragua – (March 7, 2005) A U.S. Navy-led joint forces medical team saw nearly 300 villagers on the opening day of the Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) in the rural Nicaraguan state of Chinandega.

MEDRETE provides basic medical consultation and care including preventive medicine, optometry, women’s, pediatric and family health to people throughout Central and South America as part of the larger humanitarian and civil assistance exercise New Horizons 2005.

U.S. Army ambulance teams augmented the Navy Reserve health care professionals who treated a variety of ailments including minor aches and pains, coughing and allergies. When a more serious problem was presented, such as the ten-month old girl with Down Syndrome and a heart condition, the patient was referred to the Nicaraguan doctors or international health community. 

During MEDRETEs, optometry often has the ability to give clear vision to someone who has not been unable to see well in years.  Today, an 85-year old man who formerly herded cattle received a pair of glasses that he said he had always needed.

“What you’re doing here is a godsend,” he said.  “Even the local doctor cannot do for us what you are doing.” 

The 15-person Navy team consisted of providers, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and corpsmen. Force protection for the exercise was provided by U.S. and Nicaraguan army soldiers. A Marine Corps civil affairs team helped with several logistics arrangements at the school where the MEDRETE will work for three consecutive days before moving to another site.

Navy Cmdr. (Nurse Corps) Lucy Schallmoser commented on the abundance of pain-related ailments:  “Most people in rural Nicaragua engage in very strenuous, hard labor like cutting sugar cane, so we try to provide them with temporary relief with medication, as well as talk about preventative techniques to help them in the future.”

The Navy MEDRETE will conduct operations at three sites during their two-week annual training.  The Army and the Air Force will provide the follow-on teams, which will continue the work through mid-May.

New Horizons is a joint-combined services engineering and humanitarian aid mission that will see the construction of four schools and two medical clinics in Nicaragua. This is the fifth New Horizons exercise held in Nicaragua.  The goal of the exercise is to improve the quality of life of remote communities while also providing joint military training opportunities.