Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Acajutla, El Salvador, for its seventh mission stop of Continuing Promise 2011 (CP '11), July 14.
More than two thirds of the way through its five-month mission, Comfort and the CP '11 mission team have visited Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. The ship's crew of military personnel and non-governmental organization volunteers have provided medical services to more than 44,941 patients.
Comfort is operated by a crew of 70 civilian mariners from the Military Sealift Command.
"We are the landlords of the ship," said Comfort Chief Mate David Lieberman. "The crew provides all of the services needed to get the ship on station from water and electricity, to navigation and transporting patients to and from the ship. We do whatever is necessary to support the mission commander and Medical Treatment Facility in their endeavors."
As with previous port visits, a few service members embarked aboard Comfort claim El Salvador as their country of origin. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Darwin Flores-Lopez spent 15 years in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, and hopes to see the family and friends he said goodbye to before immigrating to the United States 19 years ago.
"Being a dental hygienist is what brought me out here to Comfort," said Flores-Lopez. "I feel very privileged to have this skill to make a difference, even if it's a small one, for the patients we'll be seeing,"
Comfort's deployment to the region exemplifies the United States' commitment to cooperative partnerships in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
"I see myself as a positive role model for my community and especially for the native Salvadorans," said Lt. Cecilia Mendoza, a nurse and Salvadoran-American. "Making a difference by taking care of our patients and the community, and building strong relationships between both nations is very, very important to me."
In addition to medical, dental and veterinary care provided by CP '11 personnel, Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28, and U.S. Marines from 8th Engineer Battalion will conduct two civic engineering projects renovating the schools Escuela Barra de Santiago and Escuela Canton Miravalle in Acajutla, El Salvador.