U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived home in Baltimore Sept. 8 after completing Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11), a five-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission in the southern hemisphere.
CP11 was part of an annual mission that fosters goodwill, and demonstrates U.S. commitment and support to Central America, South America and the Caribbean. CP11 offered training for U.S. military personnel and partner nation forces, while providing valuable services to communities in need.
"With participants from more than 200 non-governmental organizations, and 13 different host and partner nations, we were able to conduct real-life training and exchange expertise and medical best practices," said Capt. David Weiss, commanding officer, Medical Treatment Facility, USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). "This was an example of real international partnership and cooperation."
More than 850 personnel including active duty military, reservists, non-governmental organization civilians, and host and partner nation militaries participated in Continuing Promise.
Comfort also deployed with more than 70 civilian mariners from Military Sealift Command (MSC) who operated and navigated the ship, provided electricity and fresh water to the shipboard hospital, and when necessary, transported patients between ship and shore in small boats.
"They're that important," said Capt. Randall Rockwood, Comfort's civilian master and 29-year MSC veteran. "In this case, the ship brings healthcare and civic assistance to countries that have invited us to assist. It's not just being a supporting character in a huge play. It's a starring role, and there's a lot of positive focus that comes with it."
While deployed, the crew completed nine port visits to provide aide to locals, and to participate in subject-matter expert exchanges. Comfort visited Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Peru.
While in each port, the crew worked with host nation medical personnel to provide up to 11 days of medical, dental, optometry, engineering, veterinary services and civil-military operations training to each country's citizens. In all, the CP11 team triaged nearly 70,000 patients, filled more than 100,000 prescriptions and performed more than 1,100 surgeries.
Due to the large volume of patients, the CP11 team partnered with local health care providers and community officials to set up temporary shore-based medical clinics in order to provide free medical care to communities with limited access to medical treatment.
"Of all the deployments I have been on, this by far has been the most challenging," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd (SW/AW) Class Melecia Reid, an x-ray technician from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va. "It has been a very humbling experience to help those in need."
Embarked Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 and Marines from 8th Engineer Battalion undertook civic engineering operations. They worked hard to repair local schools and medical clinics throughout the communities, while the veterinary team worked to provide immunizations, surgeries, vitamins and deworming medications to more than 8,000 animals across multiple nations.
The CP11 team faced multiple challenges throughout the mission, including the threat of Hurricane Irene, which forced Comfort to depart and temporarily suspend operations in their last port, Port Au Prince, Haiti. After the threat passed though, Comfort was able to resume its services and complete its mission in port.
Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Adam Robinson, Jr. congratulated the CP11 crew on their successful mission.
"Medicine is a common language that bridges barriers and language," said Robinson. "Our humanitarian assistance missions like Continuing Promise help provide a foundation of hope, comfort, and stability that are the seeds of building and strengthening trust among the U.S. and our partners around the world. These relationships not only benefit the global community, they are integral to our national security strategy."
This year's mission is U.S. Southern Command's sixth Continuing Promise mission and Comfort's third mission.
Article by Shoshona Pilip-Florea, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs