July 12, 2002, 15:31 EDT

Air Guard medics deploy to El Salvador

SANDSTON, Va. - Maj. Gen. Claude Williams announced approximately that 40 members of the 192d Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard will travel to El Salvador as part of a two-week training mission for the health care providers of the 192d Medical Squadron. The unit is stationed at Richmond International Airport and will include providing health care services to El Salvadorans. Col. Stephen Hicks, commander of the 192d Fighter Wing, said the airmen would begin their two-week training this Saturday when they leave for San Salvador on board a US Air Force KC-135. He said this is a routine training deployment.

Lt. Col. Greg Biernacki, commander of the 192d Medical Squadron, said this mission will accomplish several things. He said the unit was judged to be among the very best of its type in Air Combat Command. This deployment would test the unit and determine if is "Really as good as they say." The mission will give the health care providers an opportunity to practice and hone their medical and military skills. He indicated the mission would be accomplished in an austere environment. "This would help prepare the members of the unit should they have to deploy to support Air Force operations in an underdeveloped country," he said. Biernacki pointed out this mission will also provide experience to some of the younger members of the unit.

Senior Master Sgt. Andrea Richardson, senior medical technician for the 192d Fighter Wing, said the Virginia Air Guard health care providers would travel to Morazon which is located in the eastern mountains of El Salvador. Richardson said earthquakes struck El Salvador in 2000 and 2001 making roads almost impassible. "The local nationals will literally be walking down the mountains to seek medical care," Richardson said.

Richardson stated the mission was coordinated with the local Ministry of Health Affairs and the El Salvadoran Army. According to Richardson, 192d Medical personnel will stay in an El Salvadoran military base camp. Medical care will be provided from four different locations in the eastern part of the country. A mini medical clinic will be set up at four local elementary schools to provide health care, dental, optometry, pediatrics, and OB/gyn care. Civilian medical providers will augment the military team and well as local missionary organizations. Members of the 192d Medical Squadron are expected to provide patient care for between 5,000 and 6,000 local nationals.

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