PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departed Haiti on Sept. 19th, marking the completion of Comfort's eleventh and final mission stop in support of Continuing Promise 2015 (CP-15).
During the closing ceremony held at the Amiral Killick Coast Guard Base, Capt. Sam Hancock, CP-15 mission commander, addressed distinguished guests and visitors during his remarks, "The CP-15 team is grateful to each and every one of you; you have truly made our final mission stop a successful representation of what Continuing Promise is all about: partnerships, friendships and caring for the people of each country that we had the privilege of working with," said Hancock.
Joint-military members and non-governmental organization volunteers completed medical operations at two medical sites in Port Au Prince, providing medical care to more than 14,000 patients at Amiral Killick Coast Guard Station and St. Luc hospital. Services offered at both sites brought the CP-15 mission total to over 120,000 patients cared for during the six-month humanitarian, civic assistance mission.
The CP-15 surgical team, in conjunction with non-governmental organization (NGO) medical professionals, completed more than 110 surgeries aboard Comfort. The surgical team performed a variety of surgeries that included general, pediatric, plastics, interventional radiology, gynecology, urology, orthopedics, and ophthalmology. Additionally, personnel from Operation Smile utilized Comfort's operating rooms to perform an additional 47 surgeries including cleft palate, cleft lip, fistula repairs and lip revisions. Operation Smile is a worldwide children's medical charity that provides free surgeries to children and adults born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
"For me personally, it was so meaningful to return to Haiti after experiencing the human suffering from the 2010 earthquake," said Cmdr. Robert Fetherston, Comfort's assistant director of surgical services. "Partnering with great organizations such as Operation Smile, Latter-day Saints Charities and Project HOPE enabled us to provide life-changing surgical services here in Haiti."
Subject matter expert exchanges conducted during the mission stop covered a wide range of more than 100 topics and included an all-day women's health seminar at a local church in Port Au Prince. At the seminar, Comfort medical professionals and volunteers with the NGO Latter-day Saints Charities presented topics on women's welfare, self esteem, dental hygiene and other related subject areas.
"This seminar strengthened our partnership with Haiti, because it provided health care workers and community members with additional expertise dedicated to the health and welfare of women," said Cmdr. Erlina Naval, a women's health nurse practitioner assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va. "We were able to come together to share ideas, discuss a variety of topics and continue to promote the importance of women's health."
The CP-15 veterinary team including the NGO, World Vets, attended a rabies seminar coordinated by Haitian and international partners, in an effort to assist the Haitian government in drawing up an integrated, country-wide plan to eliminate canine-mediated rabies, train health workers to deliver community awareness programs and learn diagnostic techniques. Following the seminar, the veterinary team collaborated with Haitian community members and veterinarians to provide vaccines and medications to more than 750 animals over the course of two days.
Comfort medical professionals also presented a mental health, orthopedics and pediatric medical education seminar to members of the U.S. Embassy and medical staff members from the Air Haiti organization. Comfort's biomedical technicians partnered with employees at St. Luc Hospital to exchange best practices and discuss medical equipment needs, working together to complete equipment repairs.
Seabees from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 completed multiple engineering projects to include building an awning, nesting boxes and installing a fence and partition walls at the Institution Mixte larazar et Debora. They also installed air conditioning units and built steps.
Several community relations events, organized by Comfort's chaplain's office, took place during the mission stop as well. More than 20 Comfort personnel volunteered at the Finca del Nino Orphanage, distributing coloring books, toothbrushes, shoes, book bags and soccer balls.
"The children were very excited to see the CP-15 team and they gave us a very warm welcome," said Capt. George Adams, Comfort's Navy Chaplain. "The school and children have many needs, so the donations we brought and the health education we provided were well received. It is rewarding to be a bridge between the CP-15 team and all of our new friends that we meet in each mission stop."
Additional events that took place during the mission stop in Haiti, included a tour and medical related subject matter expert exchanges at a Cuban medical site established at the Renaissance Hospital and a second tour at St. Luc Hospital. At each event, CP-15 leadership and staff from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti attended the events, interacting with both Cuban doctors and Cuban Embassy personnel. Both international and local press were very interested in these historic events, Cubans and Americans working side-by-side for the first time in decades. CP-15 leadership also toured the General Ba Cellar Base in Porto Principe where they met with members of the Brazilian Battalion (BRABAT) 22, a U.N. stabilization unit.
Since departing Norfolk in April, the CP-15 team has provided medical care, engineering support, and veterinary services in 11 countries to include Belize, Guatemala, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Haiti.
Before returning to Comfort's homeport of Norfolk, Va., the ship will stop at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a re-supply and the opportunity to take part in a conference alongside other medical professionals to discuss CP-15 and best practices for future missions. Comfort will then proceed to Mayport, Fla., where more than 100 members of the CP-15 mission, including the command element of Destroyer Squadron Four Zero, will return home.
Continuing Promise is a U.S. Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian-civil assistance, subject matter expert exchanges, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support and disaster response to partner nations and to show the United States' continued support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean.
For more news from Continuing Promise, visit www.navy.mil/local/cp/.