PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala –
U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) completed its first mission stop of Continuing Promise 2022 in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, Oct. 31, 2022.
During the ship’s five-day visit to Guatemala, the embarked medical team, consisting of U.S. military, Guatemalan military and civilian medical professionals, provided care to over 1,900 patients from communities across the region. Additionally, the team conducted 194 laboratory tests, ran 117 x-rays, completed 39 ultrasounds and conducted 44 surgeries.
“It's a privilege to be a part of Continuing Promise 2022,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Soriano, a registered nurse in the department of surgery aboard Comfort. “Our team provided medical care at the Japan-Guatemala Friendship Hospital and participated in various surgeries on the ship. It’s been a humbling experience working alongside local and international medical professionals to help the people of Guatemala.”
The Continuing Promise team collaborated with local government officials and domestic and international non-governmental organizations to expand capacity and capability while learning from each other. There were nine subject matter expert exchanges conducted during the mission stop, which involved biomedical technical support, tactical combat casualty control, water treatment, vector trapping, veterinary services and pediatrics. These subject matter expert exchanges ensure the impact of Continuing Promise lasts long after Comfort departs Guatemala.
The mission also held Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Initiative events throughout the week to break down gender barriers by expanding the perspective on traditional security and health issues. A highlight from the WPS events was the Gender-Based Violence Symposium with Guatemala’s first female ship pilot and Medical Treatment Facility Commanding Officer, Capt. Kathryn Elliott.
The mission held two days of academic and real world simulated events with Honduran authorities and non-governmental organizations in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It concluded the effort with a Search and Rescue Exercise attended by the President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, and U.S. Ambassador, William Popp.
The team was also heavily involved in community relations. The U.S. Fleet Forces Band performed at various community events and held two public concerts in collaboration with two Guatemalan bands. Comfort crew worked with underprivileged youth, provided Catholic mass onboard the ship with a local priest and visited local populations in areas rebuilt by United States Agency for International Development after Storms Iota and Eta.
“The Continuing Promise team of military and civilian medical professionals established, staffed and supplied a medical site to help patients, provided surgical procedures aboard Comfort and organized subject matter expert exchanges with experts that built capabilities and capacities across a variety of specialties,” said Rear Adm. Douglas Sasse, deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. “As Comfort departs, I hope the people of Guatemala are left with a fortified belief that the United States is a trusted partner.”
Since the inauguration of Continuing Promise in 2007, Comfort medical teams have treated more than 484,000 patients, which comprises over 83% of the patients treated during all Continuing Promise missions, and conducted more than 7,400 surgeries, including over 800 surgeries during the 2010 earthquake relief mission in Haiti. Comfort’s current mission is the 12th Continuing Promise mission conducted in U.S. Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.