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173rd Medical Group supports humanitarian efforts

Members of the 173rd Medical Group examine multiple patients in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010.  Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need.   (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Members of the 173rd Medical Group examine multiple patients in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010. Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Maj. Ben Mitchell, 173rd Medical Group Flight Doctor, examines a patient in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010.  Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need.   (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Maj. Ben Mitchell, 173rd Medical Group Flight Doctor, examines a patient in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010. Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Master Sgt. Neil Neisner, 173rd Medical Group Independent Duty Medical Technician, and Lt. Col. Philip Bales, 173rd MDG Dentist, prepare to remove a tooth from a patient in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010.  Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need.   (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Master Sgt. Neil Neisner, 173rd Medical Group Independent Duty Medical Technician, and Lt. Col. Philip Bales, 173rd MDG Dentist, prepare to remove a tooth from a patient in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010. Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Lt. Col. Ed Tuhy, 173rd Medical Group Optometrist, examines a patient in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010.  Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need.   (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

Lt. Col. Ed Tuhy, 173rd Medical Group Optometrist, examines a patient in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala during the Beyond Horizon's exercise April 12, 2010. Twenty three personnel from the 173rd MDG deployed to Guatemala in support of this exercise which is designed to bring basic medical, dental and optical care to communities in need. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Unknown)

PUERTO BARRIOS, Guat. -- Twenty three personnel from the 173rd Medical Group deployed to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala in support of "Beyond the Horizons" (BTH) Guatemala April 10 - 24, 2010.

According to US Southern command fact file, "BTH" is a joint service, interagency Combined Field Training Exercise. It began in 2008, and allows troops specializing in engineering, construction and health care to provide much needed services to communities in need while receiving valuable deployment training and building important relationships with partner nations.

"It was a very rewarding experience. The people were very hospitable and grateful for the work that we were doing," said Master Sgt. Neil Neisner, 173rd MDG Independent Duty Medical Technician.

173rd MDG personal were able to provide medical, dental and optometry care to over 3,000 Guatemalan people. Additionally, they were able to provide over 700 pairs of glasses, more than 800 dental extractions, and over 4,000 prescriptions to patients who would not be able to afford this care.

This was also an excellent opportunity for the medical personnel to experience firsthand the local culture and heritage.

"One of the sites that we went to was a rural Mayan village. This village has remained unchanged for quite some time. There we had the opportunity to treat a 107 year old lady. It was an amazing experience," said Neisner.

One of the main goals of "BTH" is to help improve the quality of life for the people living in rural area while at the same time improving the partner nation's capability and providing opportunities for U.S. personnel to refine engineering, medical, mobilization and deployment skills. It is a mutually beneficial experience.

"I have never worked such a joint operation like this. It was a good mission, a very eye-opening experience," said Lt. Col. Ed Tuhy, 173rd MDG optometrist.

The 173rd Medical Group is looking into the possibility of participating in a similar mission next year.