Medical Group Receives Valuable Training in Bolivia

Lt. Col. Mark Desjardins, from the143rd Medical Group in Quonset Point, R.I., and Tech. Sgt. Juan Hernandez, from the 163d RW Medical Group, treats a newborn Bolivian boy during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise in Cobija, Bolivia.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Mark Desjardins, from the143rd Medical Group in Quonset Point, R.I., and Tech. Sgt. Juan Hernandez, from the 163d RW Medical Group, treats a newborn Bolivian boy during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise in Cobija, Bolivia. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Scott Shepherd, 152nd Medical Group in Reno, Nev., and Senior Airman Felipe Soto, 163d RW MDG, treat a 6-month old Bolivian boy who has a fever of 104 degrees during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise in Cobija, Bolivia.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Scott Shepherd, 152nd Medical Group in Reno, Nev., and Senior Airman Felipe Soto, 163d RW MDG, treat a 6-month old Bolivian boy who has a fever of 104 degrees during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise in Cobija, Bolivia. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- Members from the 163d Reconnaissance Wing Medical Group recently deployed with more than 30 Air Force medics to Bolivia to participate in a two-week long Medical Readiness Training Exercise called Operation MEDRETE. 

In attendance were Lt. Col. David Emery, Technical Sgts J. Carlos Hernandez, Philip Barker and Rosa Puente, Staff Sgt. Daniel Carrero and Senior Airman Felipe Soto. Military members stayed at a Bolivian Air Force installation in the city of Cobija in the Pando region. 

"Each day started at 5:30 a.m. with a shower, shave and some food. We then packed up our vehicles and traveled to a village staying late in the evening to provide free medical care to the locals," said Sgt. Hernandez. 

Some of the villages visited were Por Venir, Filadelfia and Villa Bush, said Sgt. Hernandez. 

"Personally, I helped with about 950 pediatric patients. As a Wing, we treated approximately 3,700 people," said Sgt. Hernandez. 

The enlisted members of the Medical Group acted as Spanish-speaking interpreters. 

"This mission would have been severely handicapped had it not been for our team of translators," said Maj. Scott Shepherd, a doctor from the 152nd Air National Guard Unit in Reno, Nev. 

One of the most satisfying moments for Sgt. Hernandez was when a child said "Thank you" in English after he treated him. It made the trip worth while, he added. 

"I worked with Maj. Carl Boeck, an optometrist from the 452nd AMW," said Tech. Sgt. Philip Barker. "It was a great feeling when you put a pair of glasses on a child and their face would light up with a smile from ear to ear. Maj Boeck and I were blessed at least once a day."