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USS Boxer Concludes Latin-American Humanitarian Mission

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

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2008 – USS Boxer returned to port yesterday after a two-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Latin America.

During the deployment, Boxer visited Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru as part of the Pacific phase of Continuing Promise 2008.

“This mission is something that the Navy is starting to do more of,” Navy Capt. Peter Dallman, commander of Amphibious Squadron 5, said in a conference call with online journalists and bloggers yesterday.

Dallman said the mission reflects the new national maritime strategy signed by the chief of naval operations, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the commandant of the Coast Guard.

“In that strategy, [it] basically outlines the idea that we want to get involved with this type of mission more, and we want to reach out to partner nations just like these three,” he said.

He added that his crew benefits from these types of missions because it provides essential training that will benefit future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

The Boxer’s most recent deployment to Latin America was shorter than the crew’s previous missions, such as their last eight-and-a-half-month deployment to the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific.

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, personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service and the nongovernmental organization Project Hope accompanied the crew on the two-month humanitarian mission.

Also accompanying the Boxer crew were 60 Seabees from Navy Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303, who performed a variety of construction projects in the three countries. Their work included plumbing and electrical work, as well as roof repairs and upgrades. “We worked in 12 project locations; eight of them were schools,” Dallman said.

The medical professionals aboard Boxer saw more than 14,000 patients, completed 127 surgeries, dispensed 40,000 medications and saw nearly 4,000 optometry patients, distributing about 3,500 pairs of eyeglasses. They also completed 14,000 dental procedures and 66 repairs to biomedical equipment in the various clinics and hospitals where they worked, the captain said.

A veterinarian team saw about 2,900 animals, he added.

The Boxer crew also provided valuable training, such as CPR, nutrition, basic sanitation techniques, and first aid to 18,000 students in 123 classes, and took time to educate patients standing in line for medical treatment.

“We did also provide training to people standing in line and in dedicated training sessions to medical professionals across a wide array of topics -- everything from how to brush your teeth to waste disposal to [obstetrics and gynecology] issues,” Dallman said.

These kinds of deployments have a positive affect on sailors’ attitudes toward having a career in the Navy, the captain noted.

“It certainly benefits our people to be more training on expeditionary-type missions like this, where we’re going out into the field and working under conditions like this,” he said.

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

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