HSV 2 SWIFT, At Sea (NNS) -- High Speed Vessel (HSV) 2 Swift departed La Union, El Salvador, completing the second stop of HSV-Southern Partnership Station 2012 (HSV-SPS 12), Dec. 22.
Swift visited El Salvador for three weeks to participate in a series of subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) with partner nation peers. A U.S. Navy Seabee and U.S. Marine detachment from Swift completed improvements to three Salvadoran schools: Centro Escolar Gregorio Alvarez Nunez, Escuela de Educacion "Maria Luisa Marcia," and Centro Escolar Icacal.
Seabees worked with five Salvadoran military construction specialists to complete the project. The construction projects included fencing, minor plumbing, electrical maintenance, and other small repairs.
"It was really a privilege to get back to El Salvador with the U.S Navy and give back to the country to which I was born," said Builder 1st Class Tony Escobar, a native of El Salvador assigned to Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 23. "It was great to see my family and working with the teachers and students really made me feel like I was part of a community I had been missing for 21 years."
U.S. Marines assigned to the HSV-SPS 12 Marine Detachment worked with more than 25 Salvadoran marines at DM3 military base in La Union. The groups worked together to develop land navigation, small-unit leadership, and marksmanship techniques. Salvadoran marines hosted U.S. Marines at a reception Dec. 20 to celebrate the partnership the two groups had built.
"When I see our Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen meet with their partner-nation peers, there is always an eagerness to learn and a curiosity about practices and procedures," said Cmdr. Garry Wright, HVS-SPS 12 mission commander. "But at the end of the time together I see friendships you would have thought took years to build."
The SPS Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) team hosted three one-week SMEEs in classrooms aboard Swift with military and civilian Salvadoran security personnel. The weeklong exchanges culminated in a practical exercise designed to develop observation techniques and identify possible risky behaviors. More than 75 Salvadorans participated in the NCIS SMEE over the three-week port visit.
"No matter where you are, security is the cornerstone to successful operations," said Chief Master-at-Arms Jeffrey Bolen, assigned to the SPS NCIS team. "Everywhere we go, we are presented with new challenges and situations. Learning from each other helps you look at circumstances through a different lens, making security plans and strategies more effective."
The veterinary attachment aboard visited several animal care facilities in El Salvador. The trip was highlighted by the SMEE with the trainers of military working dogs in San Salvador and their visit to a Salvadoran sea turtle sanctuary.
"The visit to the sanctuary gave us exposure to something unique and different," said Army Capt. Catie Cook, lead HSV-SPS 12 veterinarian. "It was a rare opportunity to get out and see preservation facilities in other countries and how they take care of wildlife."
The medical detachment also hosted SMEEs in the classrooms aboard the ship. Together with local medical professionals, the group practiced basic lifesaving techniques, suturing, and experts discussed diagnoses and prognoses of common local diseases. The medical teams also visited local hospitals and clinics in the area to meet with local healthcare professionals.
"During discussions, we learned about local medical practices and procedures," said Air Force Maj. Randy Byrd, a nurse assigned to the medical detachment. "What we talked about was very informative and our general practices were very similar. Sometimes the language barrier was difficult to overcome, but when we got down to practical medicine, everyone was very professional."
Twenty-nine pallets of Project Handclasp materials consisting of 85,000 high-calorie meals and medical equipment were off-loaded from Swift to be delivered to local families and clinics in El Salvador. "Loving Hugs" stuffed animals were also handed out to special needs children by the Military Civil Affairs Team aboard Swift to children at Escuela Educacion de Especial "La Union."
"You could see how happy the stuffed animals made the children," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Cedric Wright. "It made me feel good because all the kids were smiling, laughing and playing with the toys. The stuffed animals were like an early Christmas present for the children. The parents expressed their gratitude that we had done something for their kids. There is just something about the smile of a child that makes everyone around them happy."
Project Handclasp is a U.S. Navy program that accepts and transports educational, humanitarian and goodwill material donated by America's private sector on a space available basis aboard U.S. Navy ships for distribution to foreign nation recipients.
All branches of U.S. military service are represented on Swift. Specialists from the Seabees, Marines, medical and veterinary fields, NCIS, Expeditionary Security Team, and Maritime Civil Affairs Team are aboard Swift for this mission.
Southern Partnership Station is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in the Caribbean and Latin America. The mission's primary goal is information sharing with navy's coast guards and civilians in the region.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
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