Combat Comm Airmen repair Honduran hospital network
By David J. Murphy, 1st Combat Camera Squadron
/ Published October 02, 2015
TRUJILLO, Honduras -- Combat communications Airmen with the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 35th Combat Communication Squadron from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, restored Internet connectivity to a local hospital in Trujillo, Honduras.
The Airmen restored connectivity to 19 offices and 24 workstations allowing 30 users to connect and track patients at the Dr. Salvador Paredes Hospital. Additionally, the Airmen repaired an emergency room phone and provided training to hospital staff so they can repair their own equipment.
"The hospital hadn't had any internet connectivity for around three years," said Senior Airman Trenton Freeman, 35th CBCS client systems journeyman, "I'm glad that we were able to not only accomplish our mission and restore their connectivity, but I think we really exceeded their expectations. I'm happy that we were able to make a difference."
The Airmen are in Honduras to provide communications support to New Horizons Honduras 2015 training exercise personnel. Their main mission is to provide secure communications and technical support during the three-month exercise taking place in and around Trujillo.
"This additional mission...was humanitarian aid and basically what New Horizons was about and allowed [us] to...give back to the people of Honduras," said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jasmine Matus, 35th CBCS radio frequency transmissions craftsman.
The team faced many challenges in trying to repair the hospital's network, the biggest of which was the language barrier, remarked Matus. The team used four translators over the course of their work, but the biggest issue revolved around the technical terminology.
"Technical Spanish is just different from normal conversation so we spent a lot time repeating ourselves or asking the same question but we were able overcome that with the translator's help," said Matus, "another issue was that supplies are not sold locally so...contracting here...acquired the supplies we needed to extend the service and repair parts of their infrastructure that wasn't working."
One of the rooms the team deemed as most important was the archives room, which houses patient medical records. The hospital currently only has paper records and was looking to digitize all their files.
"It was actually the primary office we had been trying to get from the beginning," said Matus, "there was just so much paper in there that is was easier to keep track via computer."
The network infrastructure repair project also served as a training opportunity for the Airmen.
"It was a good feeling being able to restore service to the hospital and being able to teach the Airmen who came there with me something new," said Matus, "and they also got to share in an actual humanitarian project, to know what it feels like to be able to give somebody something that is so easy to get back home."
The team will continue to work with the hospital to finish all remaining projects.
New Horizons was launched in the 1980s and is an annual joint humanitarian assistance exercise that U.S. Southern Command conducts with a partner nation in Central America, South America or the Caribbean. The exercise improves joint training readiness of U.S. and partner nation civil engineers, medical professionals and support personnel through humanitarian assistance activities.