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Air Force, Army medical team returns home from successful mission

ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- After three days, a team of Air Force medical specialists finishes operations in one area of Alajuela in a joint humanitarian mission with local Costa Rican physicians. The team will travel to another rural area of the region to provide medical care to residents who are rarely seen by physicians due to living in isolated areas. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Steve Bauer)

ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- After three days, a team of Air Force medical specialists finishes operations in one area of Alajuela in a joint humanitarian mission with local Costa Rican physicians. The team will travel to another rural area of the region to provide medical care to residents who are rarely seen by physicians due to living in isolated areas. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Steve Bauer)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A team of medical personnel from the 30th Medical Group returned to Vandenberg May 30 from humanitarian efforts in the Northern Province of Alajuela, Costa Rica.

The medical personnel deployed to Costa Rica May 16 - 30 to team up with medical personnel from Air Force and Army installations to provide medical care to residents who are rarely seen by physicians due to living in rural regions of the country.

During the group's stay in the country, they provided care for 4,016 patients, dealt out 10,212 pharmacy prescriptions, supplied 878 pairs of eyeglasses and did 470 dental extractions. Since this medical feat was accomplished in only 10 days, the group's members and their co-workers at their home stations had to make some sacrifices.

"Everybody in the 30th Medical Group volunteered to support this mission including those who did not go to Costa Rica," said Lt. Col. Erich Murrell, the 30th Medical Support Squadron commander. "The medical staff at Vandenberg worked during their lunches for two weeks prior to the trip preparing all of the prescriptions as a group. Our staff members who stayed at Vandenberg not only had to see their normal flow of patients, but the additional patients from our staff deployed to Costa Rica. The team at Vandenberg was a vital part of the success of the trip."

The members of the team who traveled to Costa Rica made a few sacrifices of their own. 

"The team members working the humanitarian effort, on average, worked 14-hour days," Colonel Murrell said. "They also willingly gave up two weekends and a four-day holiday to participate in the mission." 

The Air Force Medical Service participates in approximately 30 humanitarian missions around the world every year. These efforts go a long way for the Air Force as well as the recipients.

"Most of the people we provided care for in Costa Rica had never had a group of people come out and do something for them, just to do it," the Colonel said. "Once the word got out to these people that we were there to help, they started coming in the masses. I believe if you make a difference in a person's life, at least once, they will remember that forever. The people there did not know we were from the 30th Medical Group or even the 30th Space Wing, they just know that we are from the United States Air Force and we were down there to help."

The team from the 30th MDG accomplished exactly what they had set out to do, helping more than 4,000 patients.The team wrapped up their stay in Central America by visiting an orphanage near San Jose, Costa Rica, to bring gifts that were collected by Vandenberg Air Force Base and the towns of Lompoc and Santa Maria, Calif.