Arkansas Air Guardsmen provide medical care in Guatemala

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Sherlock,
  • 188th Wing

PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala (AFNS),--   Arkansas Air National Guard members helped provide medical care in Guatemala alongside U.S. and foreign military, government and civilian personnel during the Continuing Promise 2022 mission Oct. 26-31. 

Senior Airman Tabari Matthews, 189th dental technician, assisted Canadian Army Capt. Cleve Kim, dentist, in planning treatment for 35 people Oct. 28. 

“It is a lot of fun talking to other military forces,” Kim said. “I get to know them and how they operate. It has been an interesting and memorable experience.” 

“It was a great learning experience,” Matthews said. “Capt. Kim was very precise, and it was interesting to work with him and the other dentists.” 

Kim also recognized some challenges that arise when working with foreign personnel. 

“I have to convert the system for numbering teeth that I’m used to and use the American system,” Kim said. “So I slow down in order to make sure we are communicating clearly with one another.” 

Continuing Promise 2022 began with the departure of the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) from Miami to the U.S. Southern Command area of operations. 

The Comfort is visiting Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Haiti from October to December. During these mission stops, medical teams work with partner nation medical personnel to provide care on board and at land-based medical sites. The goal is to increase medical readiness, strengthen partnerships, and enhance the capabilities of the U.S. Navy and partner nations to respond to public health disasters and humanitarian crises. 

Since 2007, Continuing Promise medical personnel have treated more than 582,000 people and conducted more than 7,000 surgeries. 

The Guatemala mission was supported by U.S. military personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo, U.S. State Department, U.S. Health and Human Services, U.S. Public Health Services, and the U.S. Agency for International Development supported the mission. Also part of the team: non-federal entities and academic institutions and medical personnel from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. 

Continuing Promise 2022 encourages partnerships between nations, non-federal entities and international organizations. The mission uses the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program with Guatemala to support security cooperation, interoperability, and humanitarian assistance with expeditionary medical care while increasing readiness. 

The Arkansas National Guard and Guatemala have been paired in the State Partnership Program for two decades.