Humanitarian Aid

Pence Tours USNS Comfort Before Its Latin America Deployment

June 18, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, toured the USNS Comfort at the Port of Miami as the ship prepares to embark on a five-month deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean to address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and to strengthen partnerships in the region.

Two men and a woman walk along the pier next to a hospital ship.
Comfort Tour
Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen Pence, and Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, visit the hospital ship USNS Comfort at the Port of Miami, June 18, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer Richard L.J. Gourley
VIRIN: 190618-N-FN963-1001A
The vice president and second lady shake hands with sailors across a hospital bed aboard a ship.
Comfort Welcome
Vice President Mike Pence greets Navy Lt. Gwendolyn Mann, and his wife, Karen Pence, greets Petty Officer 1st Class Edna Wallace during a tour of the USNS Comfort in Miami, June 18, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Jordan R. Bair
VIRIN: 190618-N-FO574-1067E

During today's visit, the vice president called the deployment a lifesaving mission.

"When the USNS Comfort pushes off tomorrow, she will embark on no ordinary mission," he said. "Her departure from this place will be [its] second deployment to Latin America in the last six months."

Pence expressed his "great appreciation" to the men and women who are serving aboard the hospital ship to continue America's effort to bring desperately needed medical care to those in need, especially the men, women and children who are suffering under the unprecedented crisis in Venezuela under dictator Nicolas Maduro.

A large yellow crane rises to the deck of a hospital ship as sailors man the rails.
Comfort Crane
Sailors man the rails as the hospital ship USNS Comfort departs on a scheduled deployment, June 14, 2019. During the deployment, the crew will work with health and government partners in Central America, South America and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained by an increase in Venezuelan migrants.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class J. Keith Wilson
VIRIN: 190614-N-SG189-1057
A reporter interviews three Navy officers in uniform.
Comfort Interview
From left, Navy Capt. David Murrin, ship's master; Navy Capt. B. J. Diebold, mission commander; and Navy Capt. Kevin Buckley, medical treatment facility commanding officer, address reporters at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., June 13, 2019, prior to the hospital ship USNS Comfort's deployment to South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The ship is deploying in support of regional humanitarian and partner-building efforts.
Photo By: Shevonne Cleveland, Navy
VIRIN: 190613-N-GG093-1561E

After six years of oppression under Maduro and his regime, what was one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere is now a country where nine out of 10 people live in poverty, Pence said.

You are fulfilling this nation's enduring promise, the very mission of [U.S. Southern Command], … at a time of great duress."
Vice President Mike Pence

The vice president described a country where thousands of children are starving and many are dying from lack of basic medical care. Crime, violence and lawlessness have spread like a virus, the vice president said, adding that vicious gangs have turned streets into war zones, and Venezuela now has the world's highest murder rate.

The Maduro regime is a threat to peace and security across the hemisphere, Pence said.

"While the United States has taken humanitarian action to include delivering food, Venezuelan people need more than food. They need medical care, and that's why the USNS Comfort will deploy once again," Pence said.

A white hospital ship with red cross markings moves through the water.
Comfort Underway
The hospital ship USNS Comfort gets underway from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., June 14, 2019. Comfort began its deployment to South America, Central America and the Caribbean in support of humanitarian and partner-building efforts.
Photo By: Bill Mesta, Navy
VIRIN: 190614-N-OH262-1719E
Sailors in white uniforms line the rail of a hospital ship.
Rails Manned
Sailors man the rails aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort as they depart for a deployment from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., June 14, 2019. During the deployment, the crew will with health and government partners in Central America, South America and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained by an increase in Venezuelan migrants.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Maria G. Llanos
VIRIN: 190614-N-XL376-1032E

The vice president offered encouragement to the USNS Comfort crew. "You're embarking on a vital mission," he said. "You are fulfilling this nation's enduring promise, the very mission of [U.S. Southern Command], … at a time of great duress."