Continuing Promise 2017 Mission Concludes Final Mission Stop in Popoya Playa

By By Lt. Cmdr. Amy Zaycek, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs


POPOYA PLAYA, Colombia (NNS) -- The Continuing Promise 2017 (CP-17) mission made its last mission stop at the Popoya Playa School, from March 25-29, where personnel deployed in support of CP-17 conducted an array of different activities such as infrastructure enhancement, nutrition classes and preventative health tips.

During CP-17 U.S. military personnel worked closely with their host-nation counterparts and health professionals to respond to the day-to-day needs of the citizens.

In collaboration with the Wayuu tribal leader Rosa Ipuala, Naval Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (NCBMU) 202 constructed a new kitchen at the school. The kitchen included shelves, tables, netting for protection against insects, and a new grill to enhance the quality of food served to the children of Popoya Playa School.

The kitchen is marked by handprints of the school children, leaders, and the U.S. and Colombian military members who participated in its construction. On the day of the ribbon cutting, Ipuala cooked the first meal for the children.

"To have the opportunity to do this type of work in the field and to see the impact that it has on a village that doesn't have the luxuries that most of us are fortunate to have reminds the team and me why we joined the Navy to be Seabees," said Utilitiesman Second Class Elliott Schultz, assigned to NCBMU 202.

Along with the construction of the new kitchen, members of the CP-17 public health detachment taught classes on personal hygiene, food safety, fire safety and mosquito control to the mothers and children of the community.

Cmdr. Jennifer Wallinger, a dietitian/nutritionist from Naval Hospital Jacksonville, educated more than 125 children along with their teachers and family members on the importance of nutrition in keeping their bodies strong and preventing illness.

"It's incredibly rewarding to provide these children with simple skills and knowledge that can substantially change their lives for the better," said Hospital Corpsman First Class Sean McKay, a preventive medicine technician assigned to Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 2.

Through these interactive sessions, translated into Spanish by Colombian marines and then Wayuniki by teachers, the children learned ways to prevent many of the factors that that contribute to illnesses in this community and ultimately malnutrition.

"Thank you for what you have done for my brothers and sisters of Colombia," said Colombian marine corporal John Bedoya. "Everything you did for us was done with love and professionalism. It has been a pleasure working with you."

CP-17 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian assistance, training engagements, medical, dental, and veterinary support in an effort to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America.

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