Comfort Ahoy: Guatemala
Hospital Ship provides assistance to thousands. by Matt Bokor.
A hospital ship from the U.S. Navy brought free medical, veterinary, engineering and humanitarian help to thousands of Guatemalans during a recent nine-day deployment to Puerto Barrios.
Personnel from the USNS Comfort provided dental, visual, pediatric and general medical services to more than 10,000 Guatemalans at two onshore medical sites in the Izabal department.
In addition, 111 surgeries were performed aboard the seven-level, floating hospital, which contains 12 fully equipped operating rooms. Anchored offshore Puerto Barrios from April 21-30, the Comfort also provided shipboard training to 140 Guatemalan medical professionals.
Animals large and small found help, too: Army veterinarians and vet techs visited horse and cattle farms to collaborate with their Guatemalan counterparts on dairy cattle management, water buffalo vaccinations and equine health. The team provided free pet vaccinations, spaying and neutering services to dogs and cats.
Services reached beyond medical assistance as Navy engineers renovated two schools, where they replaced roofs and windows among other enhancements.
There was some fun stuff, too, with performances by the U.S. Fleet Forces Band at a school and an orphanage, along with public concerts at both medical sites. Service members delivered stuffed animals, soccer balls and school supplies to children.
The Comfort also welcomed several distinguished visitors aboard for a reception and ship tour. Guests included U.S. Ambassador Todd Robinson; Gen. Carlos Eduardo Estrada Perez, Guatemala, Chief of Staff of Naval Defense; and Vice Adm. Carlos Adolfo Thomas Ramirez, Guatemala, Chief of Naval Operations.
Guatemala was the Comfort’s second stop, following Belize, on the ship’s six-month mission of humanitarian and civic assistance. Additional destinations are Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Panama.
The Comfort’s visits are part of the U.S. Southern Command’s Continuing Promise 2015 civil-military program, reflecting the United States’ support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean.