U.S. military personnel completed a 10-day visit to Honduras March 2 in support of the Continuing Promise 2017 humanitarian mission and have continued on to Colombia.
As part of the visit, a team of 169 Army, Navy, Air Force, and service members worked with Honduran military counterparts, medical professionals and volunteers to provide medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary services Feb. 21-March 2.
Continuing Promise is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet conducted biennial deployment to countries in Central and South America. From January-April, the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Spearhead will transport U.S. military medical and construction personnel and private aid organizations to work with host nation counterparts to provide health care and complete community assistance projects in each nation.
At the closing ceremonies at Puerto Castilla Naval Base, Navy Capt. Errin Armstrong reflected on how the team’s time in Trujillo will enhance their upcoming visit to Mayapo, Colombia.
“As we prepare to leave Honduras, I know that we can build off our experiences here to enjoy the same successes at our next stop,” said Armstrong, the mission commander.
CP-17 is headed to its final scheduled stop, where service members will continue their participation in knowledge exchanges and training events with their host nation-partners while providing medical services to area civilians.
Helping People in Need
Since departing Naval Station Mayport, Florida, Jan. 26, the humanitarian mission has had a combined 12,909 patient encounters in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and Trujillo. This includes 3,657 dental, 3,417 adult medicine, 2,013 pediatric, 1,625 optometric, 669 gynecological, 519 dermatological and 435 physical therapy visits.
Additionally, veterinarians treated 1,493 animals, environmental health and medical professionals participated in 135 knowledge exchange and training events, musicians from the U.S. Fleet Forces Band performed 36 concerts and service members were involved in 15 community relations projects.
“In both of our mission stops we exceeded our patient encounter goal by over 125 percent,” Armstrong said. “However, the importance that people and partnerships play in this mission’s success cannot be solely measured in numbers.”
For dermatologist Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Lesley Hawley, treating patients during CP-17 is a chance to give back and help others. She cited Consuela Mirandez, a patient who was referred to Hawley with a pyogenic granuloma on her nose. The benign tumor made of blood vessels would continue to grow unless removed.
Hawley said the girl was scared of going to school because the two-centimeter growth was causing her to be bullied and have no friends. After consulting with her mother, Hawley removed the tumor in a procedure which took 20 minutes from start to finish.
“It was rewarding and an honor to have the opportunity to change a life, which leaves a lasting impact on the patient and me,” said Hawley, who is attached to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia. “After the surgery, we pulled out a phone and set it on selfie-mode so she could see herself. That smile was worth the whole trip.”
The trip to Trujillo was also worth it for Bessy Medina, who took a 40-minute bus ride from her hometown of Bonito Oriental, Honduras, to receive care at the medical site.
Once there, using ultrasound-guided drainage, doctors were able to treat a cyst on her wrist which caused her pain in the performance of everyday tasks.
“I’m excited and super thankful for the treatment and the doctors for relieving my pain,” Medina said.
“It was great that we were able to treat her; by having radiology work closely with primary care, we were able to offer top-quality service without a lengthy referral process,” said CP-17’s chief medical officer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Robert Lennon.
Lennon said the encounter is just one example of how work during CP-17 both helps local residents while giving the 80-member medical team opportunities to increase their professional knowledge and skill sets.