PUERTO SAN JOSE, Guatemala (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Puerto San Jose, Guatemala, June 30, after a three-day underway period for its sixth mission stop during Continuing Promise 2011 (CP '11).
Continuing Promise personnel will provide medical, dental, veterinary and engineering services to Puerto San Jose, Guatemala residents. To date, the ship's crew of military and civilian personnel has performed medical, dental and optometry services for 36,371 patients, and has provided veterinary and engineering services ashore.
After this mission stop in Guatemala, Comfort and the CP '11 mission team will stop in Costa Rica, El Salvador; and Haiti before returning to the United States.
Comfort is operated by a crew of more than 70 civil service mariners (CIVMARs) that navigate the ship, maintain the hotel services such as electricity and water, and operate the small boats for transporting patients to and from the ship.
"There are so many moving parts to this whole mission," said Third Officer Laura Hammond, an MSC CIVMAR.
Hammond, a utility boat driver, is among the first to greet the patients and the last to see them go.
"We're all working incredibly hard, but it's okay because it's all about the patients and their faces to me," Hammond said. "When they get on the ship they look one way; a little nervous and curious, and when they leave, their eyes just shine with deep gratitude. It makes everyone involved feel like they're doing something right."
While in Guatemala, the CP '11 team will also exchange professional knowledge with the region's military and civilian medical personnel through the subject matter expert exchange program.
"One of the goals of the entire program is to train both providers and educators how to improve the capacities of the health care systems in the countries that we visit," said Lt. Cmdr. Amy Drayton, USNS Comfort Education and Training Team Department head.
One crewmember embarked aboard Comfort for the CP11 mission said that he is excited to go back to Guatemala, his country of origin.
"I am very excited to be going back to Guatemala," said Senior Airman Bernie Torres, a Spanish linguist for CP '11. "Guatemala is not only a very beautiful place, but the people are very warm."
Torres is one of 13 translators on board Comfort who help patients and medical personnel overcome the communication barrier.
"I'm in a great position to be part of this mission and to be able to bring help to its people," said Torres.
Comfort will spend 10 days conducting civil-military operations with the people of Guatemala.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) support 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.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.