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The Guatemala Deployment

December 1999 - January 2000

On December 12, 1999, the Division was activated to assist ICE with the development and operation of a portable detention camp in a foreign country which had only recently emerged from a long civil war. Seventeen PHS Officers were detailed to this month long deployment, carrying with them as part of their possessions, all equipment and supplies necessary to create and operate a field medical unit. The Guatemalan standard of health care and the resources available to the medical team were primitive. X-rays were developed by the staff in wash basins and were hung to dry from a lemon tree. The team provided medical services to 259 Chinese migrants intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard off the shores of Guatemala. Armed Guatemalan military escorts accompanied team members to and from the site because the heavily armed civilian population did not hesitate to use armed assault.

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