PUERTO CASTILLA, Honduras (NNS) -- For one U.S. Navy lieutenant, Southern Partnership Station 17 (SPS 17) is more than just a chance to exchange information. It is a way of connecting with her heritage, and a way to change the lives of people like her.
Lt. Juliana Gutierrez, a woman's health nurse assigned to Naval Hospital Pensacola in Florida, is one of three translators, out of 85 total service members deployed to Central America, as part of SPS 17.
"From the moment I arrived in Honduras, I was able to feel like I'm at home, while I was learning their culture," said Gutierrez. "I may not be from Honduras, but these people I interact with will always be a part of me."
Gutierrez was born in New Jersey. At the age of two, her mother and father moved her family to Colombia, so they could experience their native culture. They lived in Colombia for the next seven years, until they moved back to the U.S.
Her parents were adamant about learning both cultures, and ensuring their children were well versed in both English and Spanish.
"My mother is a nurse and she knew the advantages of knowing more than one language, and how it would put me ahead in life," said Gutierrez.
Accurate translation for U.S. Navy and Honduran medical professionals is key in building the lasting relationship between the two countries. Understanding how to express the language in a medical setting is one of the most influential parts of the mission.
"Knowing that every time we have exchanged information and they understand it, it's like winning the lottery," said Gutierrez. "It means the world to me. That something so small to me [translating Spanish], means so much more to them."
When Juliana is not translating for U.S. Navy doctors, she gives classes on her medical specialty, maternal infant care.
"I love sharing, exchanging and working with maternal and child care," said Gutierrez. "When I get the chance to talk to Honduran doctors and nurses in my field, and understand what their resources are, I get the opportunity to understand their culture even more."
Gutierrez said she enjoyed translating for the U.S. Navy doctors and hospital corpsmen, and working with the local medical professionals in maternal infant care. Both experiences for her were completely different and rewarding.
"I love every day that I've had the opportunity to do the engagements with the community," said Gutierrez. "It feels like they are actually learning from us and we are learning from them."
The SPS 17 medical team has been in Central America for more than 60 days, traveling from city to city and country to country, conducting subject matter expert exchanges. Gutierrez will continue to provide medical assistance through translation and maternal infant care until SPS 17 concludes in late October.
SPS 17 is a U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT) mission focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries, security forces and medical providers in Central and South America.
USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT 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 regions.
For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.