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AFSOUTH medics lead the way in exchanges with El Salvador

Members from the Salvadoran air demonstrate the use of and extractor and floating litter during a U.S. Air Force and Salvadoran air force subject matter expert exchange at Ilopango Air Base, El Salvador, March 8, 2016. 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) surgeon general’s office, led a five member team of medics from around the U.S. Air Force on a week-long medical subject matter expert exchange in El Salvador. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather R. Redman/Released)

Members from the Salvadoran air demonstrate the use of and extractor and floating litter during a U.S. Air Force and Salvadoran air force subject matter expert exchange at Ilopango Air Base, El Salvador, March 8, 2016. 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) surgeon general’s office, led a five member team of medics from around the U.S. Air Force on a week-long medical subject matter expert exchange in El Salvador. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather R. Redman/Released)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- An AFSOUTH medic-led a team of five U.S. Air Force members from across the country and put their various experiences to work this week during a subject matter expert exchange in El Salvador from March 7-11.

The team, led by Maj. Helda Carey, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) international health specialist, included members from the New Hampshire Air National Guard and active duty Air Force members from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. The focus of this exchange was on exchanging basic medical techniques and procedures with members from the Salvadoran air force.

“Our goal is to share information and training on providing self-aid buddy care and basic medical procedures with our partner nation’s first responders,” said Carey. “This exchange focused on the basics of patient care. It was meant to be an introduction of life saving measures for the Salvadoran air force members and a review for the medics that are part of the exchange.”

Sharing and exchanging information between the two air forces has been the cornerstone in helping to build our partner nation capacity.

“By sharing our medical techniques with the Salvadoran air force, we are giving them the tools to provide immediate lifesaving care that will directly impact their patient’s lives,” added Carey.

According to U.S. Southern Command, the combatant command responsible for Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, it is training exercises and exchanges that assist our regional partners in strengthening defense institutions and building a group of professionals committed to working together.

“We want to give the Salvadorans the tools for them to manage their emergency response program, so they can better themselves as individuals and as a service,” said Carey.

The biggest challenge for the team members has been trying to connect with the Salvadorans on a cultural level. Together the team had to find a way to relay the information that was pertinent to the Salvadorans.

“As with any group you need to find a way to keep the audience interested in what you’re saying,” added Carey. “With the Salvadorans, we found out that they like to know the rationale behind methods and procedures. By breaking through this hurdle we were able to keep their attention and they have been able to retain and build upon it through the course of our exchange.”

As with all exchanges, lessons learned go both ways. Both sides have to compromise and adapt to each other and the environment.

“We cannot relate to them the same way as we would American forces,” said Carey. “We tend to be more structured and utilize our forces in a different way than they do. They do not have the same training or equipment that we do, but to see their adaptability is impressive. They can achieve what we want them to without the conveniences we have.”

Air Forces Southern serves as the air component to U.S. Southern Command and is responsible for providing air and space capabilities in support of U.S. military partnerships across Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.