MIAMI, FL - As the sun broke over the waters of Biscayne Bay in the early morning, the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort pulled into the Port of Miami on October 23 for its last stateside port of call before beginning its deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean as part of the Continuing Promise mission.
For the next two months, the USNS Comfort - originally designed to handle mass casualty incidents during times of war - will take part in a humanitarian assistance, readiness building and goodwill mission to five nations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Their first stop will be Guatemala and Honduras before sailing onto the other countries of Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Haiti.
Addressing the local and international press, U.S. Army Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), spoke of her meeting the leaders of these partner nations explained the need for the USNS Comfort and the much-needed relief it will provide to these countries after suffering through the ravages of the pandemic.
“A lot of their populations have been put into poverty as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, and they're trying desperately to recover from this,” said Richardson. “The USNS Comfort will definitely help increase the partnership, but it will help these nations that are struggling from the impact of all the challenges that they are facing.”
Throughout its two-month deployment, the diverse crew of about 1,000 military and civilian personnel will work alongside a variety of governmental agencies to provide medical assistance to communities based on the needs identified by the host-nation health ministries. The majority of these patients will be treated at the ship’s land-based medical sites, while select patients may be chosen for the hospital ship’s onboard surgical services.
The medical and dental capabilities provided during this deployment will assist communities with a wide range of health services, including basic medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine, dental screenings and treatment, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, public health training, and additional specialties as required.
Additional military personnel from our partner nations that will be embarked on the ship include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and the Royal Netherlands.
Since its inception in 2007, the Continuing Promise mission has treated more than 580,000 patients overall while the USNS Comfort alone has treated almost half a million patients and conducted over 7000 surgeries. The crew for this year’s mission will look to add to that total as the ship embarks on its eighth mission.
“In the midst of this sea of challenges, the Comfort sails as a symbol of the unshakeable bonds between the people of the United States and the people of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Richardson. “The ship and its crew will extend an outstretched hand. They give hope. Wherever she goes, she carries with her our enduring promise, and all that it signifies.”