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Reservists Sharpen Skills, Build relationships at Resolute Sentinel

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

While many of his friends were lying on the beach or riding roller coasters with their kids at amusement parks, Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy spent his summer vacation at one of the top military hospitals in the El Salvadorian capital of San Salvador, sharpening his own medical skills while sharing knowledge with Salvadorian military health care providers. 

Murphy, a critical care nurse and the deputy flight commander for the Air Force Reserve’s 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Air Reserve Station, Minnesota, was one of 184 Reserve Citizen Airmen who took part in Resolute Sentinel 22, a multi-event exercise that stretched from May until the end of August in the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize.

Resolute Sentinel is a new 12th Air Force-led U.S. Southern Command exercise first held in 2021. It evolved from the longstanding New Horizons and Beyond the Horizons annual joint humanitarian assistance exercises in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“It was a great experience,” Murphy said. “We were down there to build relationships with the host country, and medical was just the avenue to do that. The big picture goal was to build relationships with the Salvadorians and the smaller picture was the medical education.”

Resolute Sentinel 22 was a true joint force exercise, incorporating Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines working with foreign national militaries, nongovernmental agencies, local and national government agencies, and U.S. embassies. The operation had a distinct Reserve Component flavor. Of the 883 U.S. military participants, 766 were members of the Reserve Components.

Maj. Brian Assad, another critical care nurse from the 934th ASTS, said being a part of Resolute Sentinel 22 was eye-opening. 

“To see the level of care they were able to provide with very limited medical resources was the biggest thing for me,” he said. “The people are very smart and they have great programs despite the fact that they don’t have all of the resources we have here in the United States. It was an honor to be able to teach them a few things and learn from them at the same time. The level of cooperation was amazing.”

On the medical side of Resolute Sentinel, more than 7,000 local patients and 15,000 animals were treated in medical engagements. The combat training part featured activities focused on personnel recovery, aeromedical evacuation, combat search and rescue, and parachute operations. In the area of humanitarian and civic assistance, participants completed two Southwest Asia huts, two water wells in Honduras that will service more than 110,000 locals and a clinic in Guatemala.

“We need to increase our level of training, and the best way to do that is through our allies like the United States,” said Salvadorian Army Maj. Carlos Diaz, head of the medical division at the Central Military Hospital in San Salvador where several Reserve Citizen Airman served. “We recognize that U.S. doctors, medics and nurses have many experiences. We arranged some exchanges in trauma, doing rounds and learning from them to see how to best use our resources.”

It wasn’t just Reserve medics who sharpened their skills during Resolute Sentinel 22. “It was interesting to see how everyone operates and trains the same from a coalition standpoint,” said Reserve Capt. Zachary Underwood, a pilot assigned to the 403rd Wing’s 815th Airlift Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, while participating in the exercise in Guatemala. “Plus it was a great experience for the squadrons to get out and train in a different country and in a different environment.”