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New horizons in El Salvador.

SOLDIERS, Sailors and Airmen recently joined forces in El Salvador as part of Joint Task Force Para Los Ninos, to provide humanitarian aid--including construction of schools and clinics, and medical care--to nine communities throughout the country.

The U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise was led by the Air Force Reserve, with Air Force units building schools and clinics, and other units providing free medical care, said Air Force Maj. William Riehl, joint task force commander.

Soldiers from the Army's 24th Medical Company provided medevac support to personnel at the JTF base camp and its construction and medical-readiness sites. The Nebraska-based National Guard unit also supported the JTF commander by transporting personnel and equipment.

"We provide 24-hour support to the entire task force," said CPT Grant Siedenburg. "Our main focus is overseas-deployment training, so this exercise provided us a great opportunity to train for duty in places like Iraq and Afghanistan."

Soldiers in the unit include UH-60 Black Hawk pilots, flight medics, and maintenance and operations personnel.

A seven-member reverse-osmosis water-purification unit, composed of Soldiers from the 651st, 347th and 388th Quartermaster detachments, provided the camp with potable water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.

The water is run through four different filtration systems, to ensure that it's free from chemicals or bacteria. "We test the water every hour, making sure it conforms to the Army's standard," said SFC Misty Ballinger, a water-treatment supervisor from the 651st QM Det.

Teams of Army Reserve veterinarians and technicians from the 109th Medical Det., a veterinary-services unit based in Stanton, Calif., also played a major role in the medical-readiness exercise.

Members of the unit, who live in Montana, Alaska, Washington and California, had an opportunity to treat animals ranging from cattle and horses, which they typically treat, as well as foxes, raccoons and even a flock of parakeets.

"Our three teams vaccinated cattle, horses, goats, sheep and pigs against anthrax, and treated the animals for internal and external parasites," said veterinarian Dr. (CPT) Melinda Hutton. "We also vaccinated the horses for tetanus and encephalitis."

SPC Frank Ramirez, veterinary technician and food inspector, noticed that many of the large animals were malnourished, and nearly all the smaller animals, mostly cats and dogs, were infected with fleas and ticks.

Veterinarians provided minerals for the larger animals, said Dr. (CPT) George Barrington, team veterinarian and large-animal medicine professor at Washington State University, because "the large animals here definitely don't get much nutritional value from the vegetation."

While construction work and medical and veterinary care continue at various sites in El Salvador, a combined group of Air Force Reserve security troops, Army Reserve military police and Salvadoran soldiers provided 24-hour security to the base camp and the off-camp locations.

"This is the first time we've integrated with each other, and it's been a great experience," said Air Force Master Sgt. John Frank of the 482nd Security Forces Squadron. "We perform foot patrols, all-terrain-vehicle patrols and exercises to maintain the security of this operation."

As projects progress, a team of civil-affairs Soldiers works behind A Dr. (LTC the scenes to ensure local patient citizens have what they need to use new buildings when they receive them.

The six-member team consists of four Soldiers from the 96th CA Bn., the Army's only active-duty civil-affairs unit, from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Marine Reservists from the 3rd CA Group from Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"Our job, in a nutshell, is to fill in the gaps during this mission," said CPT Roy Waldhoff, CA team chief. "When the construction is complete and we hand over the keys to schools and clinics, we make sure that desks, chairs, school supplies and basic medical supplies are available."

Besides securing materials for the clinics and schools through non-governmental organizations, the CA team identifies small additional projects that will provide a lasting service to the people of El Salvador long after the troops rotate home at the end of the exercise.

Some of those projects include rebuilding part of a clinic damaged by fire, repairing water towers, providing medical supplies left over from the medical-readiness exercise to an orphanage for AIDS-infected children, and building benches and other furniture for an orphanage that cares for some 100 orphans and abused children.

Air Force SSgt Karen Tomasik is assigned to the Joint Task Force Para Los Ninos Public Affairs Office.
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Article Details
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Author:Tomasik, Karen J.
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:2ELSA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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