Fourth Fleet Leader: Comfort's Mission Has Global Impact

Story Number: NNS090411-09Release Date: 4/11/2009 7:35:00 PM
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By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Stratton, Continuing Promise Public Affairs

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- The commander of U.S. 4th Fleet toured medical, engineering and dental humanitarian sites in the Port-Au-Prince, Haiti region April 10 during hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)'s first stop along the Continuing Promise 2009 (CP09) journey.

"We greatly appreciate everything each of our servicemembers and NGO [non-governmental organizations] volunteers are doing for the citizens of Haiti," said Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet. "Their devotion and hard work is exactly what these folks need."

This trip is under much different circumstances than the last time Kernan visited Haiti. In 2008 he came with the amphibious ship USS Kearsarge, which was diverted to the island from Santa Marta to assist with mitigating human suffering and loss of life in Haitian communities impacted by tropical storms Gustav, Hanna and Hurricane Ike.

This time the Comfort is in Haiti as part of a planned humanitarian and civic assistance mission. CP09 combines U.S. military and interagency personnel, NGOs, academic and partner nations to provide medical, dental, veterinary and engineering services afloat and ashore alongside host nation personnel. Haiti is the first of seven countries Comfort will visit on its humanitarian and civic assistance mission to South America and the Caribbean region.

"This mission is about touching people's lives, whether it is by providing dental operations or repairing the hospital," said Navy Capt. James J. Ware, USNS Comfort medical treatment facility commanding officer.

Kernan acknowledged how important it is to visit each site and touch base with the three site leaders. He and his staff, along with Comfort senior leadership first visited Killick, a local Coast Guard base, where they spent time talking with the locals and thanking everyone for their dedication to such a critical mission.

"There are a lot of great things going on here," said Kernan. "We are making a lot of friends and helping a lot of people."

The group then boarded a small boat which took them to the dock near downtown Port-Au-Prince. It was here the mission's senior leadership was escorted to the General Hospital and pharmacy to see the progress Navy Seabees were making on their restoration projects there.

Kernan took time to assist the Seabees with their efforts to rehabilitate the pharmacy. The Seabees were working to restore the patient admission and treatment centers among other mission essential areas.

"There are a lot of great things going on here," Kernan said. "Our Seabees do some of the finest work."

Finally, the group paid a visit to Cite Soleil, where Navy Capt. Colleen Gallagher, USNS Comfort Cite Soleil site manager, showed Kernan the important operations being performed there. The site provided locals with medical and dental services.

"Everybody wants to come to Cite Soleil," Gallagher said. "This is where the action is at."

Kernan said how much of a positive impact this humanitarian mission will have both for the host nations and the international community.

"People are watching," Kernan said. "We are doing great things here."

These great things come with great leadership, Kernan said. The CP09 mission is commanded by Navy Capt. Bob Lineberry.

"It's a very rewarding feeling to see all our efforts and planning come together as our combined team of professionals from numerous organizations around the world hit the beaches to assist the people of Haiti," Lineberry said. "All the preparation has been worth the effort, and I know it will be a very successful mission. I'm excited to see it come to fruition."

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