March 27, 2017 —
U.S. military and embassy personnel along with Colombian service members, police, government officials, and local residents attended the opening ceremony for Continuing Promise 2017’s (CP-17) visit to Mayapo, Colombia, at the mission’s medical site March 23.
Capt. Errin Armstrong, Mission Commander for CP-17, addressed attendees at the event and expressed his hopes for the mission’s final stop.
“Over the next 10 days we will have the opportunity to really get to know each other as we share knowledge and train alongside one another in delivering medical care to those who need it most,” said Armstrong. “Through our combined efforts we will enhance our own medical, veterinary and environmental health capabilities, while helping local communities meet their day-to-day needs.”
The medical site was established at a Colombian boarding school where patient care began March 22 for host nation residents and the indigenous population of the region, the Wayuu.
CP-17 Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Martin Bunt said because of the unique opportunity to interact closely with the Wayuu population, Colombia presents challenges to the mission only manageable through communication, cooperation and compromise between all parties.
“The Colombian government, U.S. embassy and our military personnel have worked hard to gain the trust of all the tribal elders in order for them to send their people to see our doctors. The local tribes have their own form of medicine and law that they follow strictly,” said Bunt.
Armstrong said assistance from local medical professionals, government agencies and countless volunteers will help CP-17 provide a variety of medical and dental services that will leave a positive, tangible impact on those in need.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jessica Poe, an ultrasound technician from Union, Ore., said she embraces the diversity found during the final stop of the mission.
“We have the privilege to come together and breath life into this last leg of CP-17,” said Poe, who is assigned to Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla. “We get to provide exceptional healthcare to a completely new group of people who have exposed me to their world. It is a very beautiful ending to a challenging yet rewarding adventure.”
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Omar MurielMedina, a pharmacy technician attached to Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla., said his goal is to learn from those he serves while providing the best care possible.
“CP-17 has been a life-changing experience for me knowing that we are making a difference in all of these people’s lives, not only medically, but in the friendships we are building,” said MurielMedina, a native of Orlando, Fla. “It is important to get to know their culture and get to know them as people to gain a real cultural exchange experience.”
MurielMedina added that his contact with Colombians during CP-17 will leave a lasting impression on him.
“The people I have interacted with don’t have much, but are still happy with what they have, and they have taught me so much. They have definitely made a difference in my life, and I hope I can do the same in return,” he said.
CP-17 visited Guatemala and Honduras prior to Colombia.
CP-17 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian assistance, training engagements and medical, dental, and veterinary support in an effort to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America.