USNS Comfort Heads South for Humanitarian Mission
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 14, 2007 The USNS Comfort will depart Norfolk, Va., tomorrow on its first large-scale humanitarian assistance deployment to Central America, South America and the Caribbean, where it will provide medical care to an estimated 85,000 patients from communities with limited health care access.
President Bush announced in March that the Comfort would deploy to U.S. Southern Command's area of focus to provide humanitarian aid alongside health care providers from the region and non-governmental organizations.
"Planning for this mission has incorporated various non-government organizations and government agencies, such as Operation Smile, Project Hope, the Atlanta Rotary Club, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Health and Human Services. This is truly a joint military-civilian operation," said Navy Capt. Bob Kapcio, Comfort's mission commander.
Scheduled to remain in the region through September, the Comfort will visit Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Comfort's medical treatment facility includes a staff of approximately 500 medical personnel whose specialties include general surgery; orthopedics; plastic surgery; pediatric surgery; oral surgery; ear, nose and throat; and obstetrics and gynecology. In addition to basic care, the crew expects to perform about 1,500 surgeries during the deployment. The medical team is trained and equipped to provide health care services, ranging from basic tooth extractions and wellness education to surgical repair of cleft lips and palates, and tumor removals.
"This deployment provides an opportunity for us to work together with countries in the region to make a lasting contribution across our hemisphere," said Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command. "Comfort's mission will reach far beyond the patients we will see each day. We will undoubtedly touch the lives of many families whose hardships will be lessened while strengthening our partnerships with the countries we visit."