By Terri Moon Cronk
(Released 10 September 2015) Washington, D.C. - U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort will anchor off the Haitian coast tomorrow, marking its final Continuing Promise 2015 mission stop with an opening ceremony, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a press briefing today.
Since April, the U.S. Southern Command hospital ship has taken a team of U.S. military medical and construction personnel, private-aid organizations and partner-nation officials to 11 Latin American and Caribbean nations, treating more than 100,000 patients and performing community-assistance projects, Cook said.
The ship visited Belize, Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Panama, according to Defense Department officials.
Haiti is the final mission stop, but the ship will also stop at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for a two-day port visit, and Naval Station Mayport, Florida, for a one-day visit after it leaves Haiti on its return to homeport, according to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet sources.
While in Haiti, sailors from the ship will demonstrate the Continuing Promise 2015 mission and capabilities to its Haitian hosts, and administer medical and dental care to Haitian patients, while surgeries will be performed onboard, officials said.
“We have also invited the Cuban Ambassador in Port-au-Prince and five Cuban medical workers to tour the Comfort and observe its capabilities,” Cook said.
Later during the ship's visit, medical staff from the Comfort and representatives from U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince, Haiti, plan to join Cuban medical professionals on a tour of other medical facilities in Haiti, he added.
Since 2007, the Southcom hospital ship has conducted Continuing Promise training missions to provide medical and veterinary care, and engineering and humanitarian assistance to a variety of nations, officials said. The ship did not conduct a mission in 2013 because of budget constraints and sequestration.
The missions improve interoperability with partner-nation medical care and civic assistance teams, and foster trust and cooperation, officials said, adding that the ship’s work is an investment to ensure the Defense Department is prepared to provide relief for future disasters.
The USNS Comfort performed critical missions following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.