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Comfort Strengthens Partnership with Dominican Republic Following Successful Medical Mission

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Maria Llanos

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) held its closing ceremony in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, symbolizing the completion of the hospital ship’s tenth medical mission in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, Oct. 21.

U.S. and Dominican government officials spoke of the commitment between the partner nations and the symbol of the goodwill that Comfort brought to Dominican citizens.

“Although we don’t want you to raise your anchors and navigate outside our waters, we know that you have other commitments and that our sister nations also need you,” said Dominican army Maj. Gen. Emilio Recio Segura. “Gratitude is the greatest of the virtues of human beings, and that’s why we allow ourselves to speak in the name of every Dominican, especially those that received medical attention, our most sincere gratitude to the United States of America.”

During the Comfort’s six-day mission in Santo Domingo, over 800 medical professionals of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and U.S. Public Health Service alongside eight partner nations, provided care for 6,107 patients at two separate shore-based medical sites and performed 112 surgeries aboard the ship.

“My mom found out about the Comfort through social media and the news,” said Maria Gonzalez, a 16-year old patient from Venezuela. “It made a big impact on my life because I’ve had this hernia for a while and I’ve had a lot of pain. They had very good care here!”

Additionally, this stop offered a unique opportunity for Personnel Specialist Seaman Bernie Hinojosa-Garcia, a native of the Dominican Republic assigned to Comfort.

“When I found out that we were going to be in the Dominican Republic I was super excited, because it was the first time I was going to see my family ten years,” said Hinojosa-Garcia. “I can’t even find the words to describe how amazing it was. I was in tears, my family was in tears. It was amazing!”

The Comfort’s mission is accomplished through the efforts of medical and non-medical personnel. The entire Comfort team is comprised of military and civilian personnel from the United States and partner nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Peru, as well as several non-government organizations creating a dynamic team capable of delivering a variety of services.

“It has truly been an honor to be able to see the collaboration of so many public and military entities in health service,” said Robin S. Bernstein, U.S. ambassador to Dominican Republic. “It fills me with immense satisfaction and pride to say that we have successfully accomplished this mission. These kinds of operations help us improve our teamwork, strengthen our brotherhood and show that we are united with our efforts to the service for the preservation of human life.”

This marks the seventh deployment to the region since 2007. At each of the upcoming missions, the embarked medical teams will provide care aboard the Comfort and at two land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems.

This deployment is a part of the U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative and reflects the United States’ ongoing commitment to friendship, partnership, and solidarity with partner nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/NAVSOUS4THFLT, www.dvidshub.net/feature/comfort2019, and www.navy.mil.

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