Capt. Charles Pace, 42nd Medical group pediatrician, attends to patients during the New Horizons mission to Belize, April 17.In the two-week trip, the group of 30 treated approximately 7,000 patients in five different locations within Belize. (Submitted photo)
Maxwell medics return from supporting New Horizons

by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship
Air University Public Affairs

5/13/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --  -- Eight members of the 42nd Medical Group returned recently from Belize after supporting a 14-day medical readiness training exercise called New Horizons.

The U.S. Southern Command joint humanitarian assistance exercise provides ear, nose and throat surgical procedures and hearing aids to patients across Central America.

Maxwell Airmen combined with Canadian military and U.S. Marines to establish free medical clinics and continue construction on developmental projects, including four schools.

The group of servicemembers trekked across the northeast coastal country in Central America for 14 days, offering medical treatment to patients who would not receive physical relief otherwise.

"We have incredible access to healthcare here," said Lt. Col. Ari-Beth Marlyne, 42nd MDG Operations Squadron, family health flight commander. "We just do not realize what a blessing it is to live in the United States. Those people just do not have the same access to medical treatment as we do."

In the two-week trip, the group of 30 treated approximately 7,000 patients in five different locations within Belize. Dentists, pediatricians and family practice doctors combined their knowledge to treat the wide variety of needs that swarmed their locations, seeing multiple doctors seeking relief from their ailments.

"Part of the reason I joined the Air Force is to see new places, meet different people and experience different cultures," said Capt. Charles Pace, 42nd MDG pediatrician. "When given the opportunity to go help the people of Belize, I couldn't pass that up."

Both Marlyne and Pace said that they had never been in a place housing so many medically deprived people.

"Everywhere we turn around in the United States there are locations able to provide healthcare, but they just don't have that there," said Marlyne. "There was one patient that rode a bicycle five miles to get to our location with an ulceration on his leg. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it took several hours to bike there with his condition."

Given the mass amounts of people needing medical attention, the team stepped out of their comfort zones and treated a wide variety of ailments, to include situations outside of their home-station specialties.

"I know that for me, in that situation, I got to experience facets of the medical field I normally wouldn't," said Marlyne. "It was a neat way to interact with fellow military members, experiencing their areas of expertise. I probably will never again pull a tooth, but if I had to, I know that I could do it."

Other military personnel participating in New Horizons are currently building schools, providing surgeries for prescreened patients and providing dental services.

The other members of the 42nd MDG who went to Belize are Lt. Col. Gretchen England, Lt. Col. Trent Payne, Capt. Mike Calhoun, Capt. Josh Stallings, Master Sgt. Mike Rountree, Senior Master Sgt. Arthur Thornton, and John Henry.