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USS Boxer Supports ‘Continuing Promise’ in El Salvador

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2008 – During the Memorial Day Weekend, while Americans remember the sacrifices and commitments of servicemembers, the crew of USS Boxer also will be making sacrifices as the ship participates in the Pacific phase of Continuing Promise 2008, a humanitarian civic-assistance mission in Latin America.

The mission “reflects the United States’ commitment to our partners in Latin America, [by] working side by side with the countries of El Salvador and Guatemala with their medical professionals, and their engineers as well,” Navy Capt. Peter Dallman, commander of Amphibious Squadron 5, told online journalists and bloggers in a conference call today.

On April 28, the Boxer crew left San Diego accompanied by medical professionals from 25 different commands from around the world. In addition to the augmented medical team, members from the U.S. Public Health Service and the nongovernmental organization Project Hope also accompanied the crew on the two-month humanitarian mission.

“We have 40 medical professionals normally; we’ve augmented that with another 125-plus health care professionals across the broad spectrum of optometry, ophthalmology, dental care, internal medicine, primary care, and corpsmen. Those folks are conducting clinics ashore, basically one main medical clinic a day,” Dallman said.

In addition to health care providers, 60 Seabees from Navy Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 also are accompanying the crew.

“[They] will be conducting small-grade construction projects ashore and working on reroofing electrical, plumbing, [installing] windows and screens to schools and churches,” Dallman explained.

He added that the help has been very warmly received by the people of Guatemala and El Salvador.

“I think there is certainly a need here, and we also have learned much from the folks that we’ve been working with and been treating,” he said. “There has been an overwhelming, sincere appreciation for our efforts and our commitment to their countries and their people, and that has been very gratifying.”

Dallman said that, on average, the team is treating 600 or 700 patients a day in areas of dental, optometry, and primary care. In Guatemala, they saw more than 5,000 primary care patients. To date, they have performed 67 surgeries, including removing cataracts, appendectomies, and hernia repairs.

In addition, the Boxer crew has handed out close to a 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses in Guatemala and has seen more than 2,000 optometry patients. The crew also has treated close to 1,500 animals.

Boxer has had experience in offering humanitarian assistance in their prior deployments. Dallman noted that during an October-November 2006 deployment, the crew volunteered to support a Habitat for Humanity project to build single-family homes in Lonavala, India. The sailors also volunteered for community-service projects in Singapore and Australia.

The deployment is scheduled to last through June.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity.)

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