ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Five U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen participated in the humanitarian assistance mission Continuing Promise 2011 ending Sept. 6 while embarked with Military Sealift Command's hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20).
Midshipmen 1st Class Matthew Milam, Amadeo Deluca-Westrate, Andrew Marthy, David Hoang, and Jacob Cole - all medical corps applicants - embarked aboard Comfort at different times throughout the five-month mission.
The hospital ship brought medical, dental and civic action programs to nine Caribbean, Central and South American countries during the deployment. The humanitarian operation offered training for U.S. military personnel and partner nation forces while providing valuable services to communities in need.
This was the sixth humanitarian-focused naval deployment, designed to promote partnerships and goodwill throughout the region, since 2007.
The midshipmen started out rotating through a variety of shipboard departments, including surgery, nursing, sick bay, and the operation room, observing the daily work of the medical staff on board.
Eventually, the midshipmen began to regularly accompany medical personnel who were going ashore every day to see patients at medical sites out in town. They were each paired with a doctor and spent the whole day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., observing treatments and helping where they could, said Milam, a native of Memphis, Tenn.
In addition to observing the doctors at work, the mids performed basic skills like taking blood pressure and vital signs and escorted patients throughout the site. While Continuing Promise visited multiple Spanish-speaking countries, the language barrier didn't present much of a problem, said Milam.
"I was still able to get around. The language barrier was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be," he said. "I was able to interact with the children and other patients."
For Miram, his participation in the deployment offered a good chance to see the operational side of Navy medicine, something that interested him even before he came to the academy.
"The people I met were incredible. I met a lot of Navy doctors, but also doctors from all over the world," he said. "It's comforting to see that their level of medicine is really just the same as ours. They're excellent doctors."
Miram appreciated the opportunity to work with foreign militaries in a high-stress environment.
"Sometimes the patients would come in and there would just be nothing we could do for them. It was difficult to see them struggle because we either didn't have the resources on board or didn't have enough time to treat them," Miram said. "That was the most difficult and the most eye-opening part."
The Navy's medical officer program is highly competitive. Of the 22 midshipmen applying for the program, only 10 will be approved. Whether he makes it into the program this time around or not, Milam plans to be a Navy doctor someday.
"If it doesn't work out, I'll do whatever else they want me to do and see if I can transfer into the program later," said Milam.
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