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Florida Guard partners with Guyana to boost medical readiness

By Maj. Jesse Manzano | 50th Regional Support Group | March 9, 2020

STARKE, Fla. – When Sgt. Arielle Tango, a Florida Army Guard medic with the 256th Medical Company Area Support (MCAS), arrived for her second mission in Guyana as part of Florida’s State Partnership Program (SPP), she knew her role would not be limited to subject matter expert.

Tango, a veteran of four SPP training missions, understood that in addition to facilitating medical readiness training, her presence also made her an ambassador.

“This is a very important mission for us because we are not only representing the military and our unit overseas but also our country,” Tango said. “For example, when I took part in a mission in Curaçao, we actually met with and briefed the island’s prime minister. Those types of interactions create a different level of responsibility and expectations for all of us.”

Tango was part of a Florida Army Guard team that traveled to Guyana for six days in December to train medics in the country’s defense force and coast guard. The training focused on the roles and responsibilities of medics, and preventing infectious diseases endemic to Guyana. The team included Soldiers from the Florida Guard’s Security Force Assistance Brigade and medics from the 256th MCAS.

For Maj. Jacqueline Zuluaga, commander of the 256th MCAS, SPP missions are important because they allow her soldiers to expand their training and hone their skills.

“We have the equipment, personnel, expertise and knowledge in the Florida Guard that allows us to establish a solid rapport with our counterparts throughout the Caribbean,” Zuluaga said. “Every time we send soldiers to support State Partnership missions, they build on those relationships.”

For over 25 years, the National Guard’s State Partnership Program has fostered military-to-military relationships that enhance cooperation. Because of the Florida Guard’s 256th MCAS expertise, it has been selected to send medics to train and support SPP missions focusing on medical readiness every year since 2006.

“Our Guardsmen have assisted our partners in Curaçao, Grenada, Guyana, Barbados and Antigua,” Zuluaga said. “I expect that 2020 will be no different, which is why we are getting our soldiers ready for another SPP mission in the coming months.”

Tango agrees that SPP exchanges are excellent opportunities to build stronger ties with Florida’s Caribbean neighbors.

“In the field of military medicine, there is always an opportunity to learn something new,” Tango said. “It’s a two-way street: we teach our best practices, but we learn from our hosts as well. In the end, we all practice and enhance our skills together.”