The Belize Coast Guard (BCG) is considered as the “Guardians of the Sea” and often expected to be conducting maritime security in the territorial waters of Belize; protecting its sovereignty. While this is true, there are many instances of the BCG assisting in areas that, due to its proximity, make for few and far in between presence there. While most of the country was focusing on the populated areas marked as COVID-19 hotspots during this ongoing pandemic, several members of the Alpha Company worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to provide security and access for nurses of the Toledo District Health Services (TDHS) to provide COVID-19 vaccinations and prenatal checks to the residents in the remote village of Graham Creek.
Graham Creek Village is a Guatemala/Belize border village and traversing to the area is extremely difficult. The route to the village is overwhelmed with muddy trail coupled with a minimum of three hours of trekking through unpredictable and hazardous terrain, with no protection- that’s only during the dry season. Nurse Mauricio Ack has been making the journey to Graham Creek every eight to ten-weeks for the past thirty years in both rainy and dry seasons to ensure healthcare access to all. The medical staff of TDHS firmly believe in the access of healthcare for all and the Belize Coast Guard is always ready for anything (utrinque paratus). For the first time, they were able to not only have an easier transit to the village but also provided with security the entire duration of their visit.
Alpha Company’s Hunting Caye Patrol, lead by CPO Rigoberto Rivas along with PO3 J Castro , SN P Caliz and SNAP S Sedassey conducted the mission to assist the nurse with an easier and safer transit to Graham Creek. He and his team brought the six nurses onboard their vessel from Joe Taylor Marina in Punta Gorda Town and commenced their transit. This route was via the waters and entailed entering the Sarstoon River and possibly having encounters with Guatemalan Armed Forces who still wrongly believe in their claim to the southern parts of Belize. The Belize Coast Guard and crew, stopped by the BDF Sarstoon base and then continued twelve miles up the Sarstoon River enroute to Graham Creek. The creek leading into the Sarstoon River and up to Graham Creek was overgrown and narrow, but that did not deter the mission at hand. The vessel was able to make it as close as possible to mainland and then the walking began. Unlike the previous treks to Graham Creek, this one was immensely easier, not only because of a shorter distance but also because the members of the Coast Guard were able to assist the nurses with the medical equipment needed for the vaccination shots and prenatal care for the villagers. Nurse Corrine Salam was on the mission and she stated that “with the Coast Guard human resources and their expertise on security on both land and sea, the health team felt safe and secured delivering care. We highly appreciate the great assistance by the Coast Guard in rendering security and transportation to the health team along with carrying medical equipment, an experience that our health team will always remember for a life time.”
Bravo Zulu to the team! May we always keep the country in mind and the sea in our hearts.