USNS Comfort Officials to Make ‘Needs Assessment’ in Peru
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2007 Two military medical officials onboard the USNS Comfort will join a U.S. military mobile surgical team in Lima, Peru, to assist victims recovering from a magnitude 8 earthquake that struck the country Aug. 15 and claimed at least 500 lives. Video
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward Slavin, a crew chief with the 135th Airlift Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard, inspects the exterior of a C-130J prior to a relief mission to Peru, Aug. 17, 2007. The aircrew is taking about 30 soldiers and airmen who are responding to the Aug. 15 earthquake in Peru and are taking with them 4,470 pounds of medical supplies for relief efforts. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said he and Navy Rear Adm. David J. Smith, the Joint Staff surgeon, will fly to the Peruvian capital tonight or tomorrow, depending on when an aircraft becomes available. They will depart USNS Comfort, a ship that provides humanitarian relief and currently is docked off Ecuador’s coast, roughly 800 miles from where doctors will arrive and make a “needs assessment.”
“A group of us are heading over to do needs assessment, to thank the people involved, to be sure that all of our people are safe and to see what we can do to assist,” Casscells said.
“The point of getting there early, for my team, is to say that we care about this, that humanitarian relief counts, that we will set aside other things to go there, that the United States cares about Peru, that we thank them for looking after our students and citizens who are down there,” he said.
Casscells said those affected by the earthquake need clean water, water treatment materials, food and blankets. Others may require surgery, immunizations or vitamins, he said.
U.S. Southern Command has not ordered USNS Comfort to deploy to Peru. But officials onboard said it would take two to two and a half days to reach the country’s affected areas if ordered there.
SOUTHCOM announced today that it will deploy a joint U.S. military mobile surgical team from Joint Task Force Bravo, based at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, to aid relief efforts.
The 30-member U.S. Army and Air Force surgical team will include a general surgeon, anesthesiologist, general practitioner, physician’s assistant, nurses and medical technicians, and will partner with the U.S. Embassy, as well as Peruvian defense and health officials, to provide specialized medical services to area residents.