The first stop of the annual humanitarian mission offered medical assistance and other services to local communities of Puerto Cortés.
Communities in Honduras’s northern region of Valle de Sula received medical assistance from a U.S. humanitarian campaign. Continuing Promise 2018 (CP-18), a U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command-conducted annual event, carried out civil-military operations in support of the Honduran government from March 11th to 23rd.
“Honduras has been a strong partner and ally to the United States,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Bobby Dixon, a public affairs officer and spokesperson for CP-18, told Diálogo. “Missions like Continuing Promise were created to further strengthen that relationship by working together to improve people’s lives.” CP-18 was the fourth humanitarian aid mission carried out in Honduras.
Hundreds of members of the U.S. military, including doctors and service members, deployed to the northern part of the Central American country aboard the USNS Spearhead, under the command of U.S. Navy Captain Angel Cruz, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 40. Honduran doctors and other health professionals also joined the U.S. humanitarian mission. More than 5,000 people from communities around Puerto Cortés—where the USNS Spearhead docked—received medical care, classes on preventive medicine, and other types of assistance.
Children, adults, and the elderly eagerly awaited the arrival of the USNS Spearhead, forming long lines from the early hours of the morning to be seen. “It pulls at your heartstrings to hear of people waiting in line with their babies since 3 a.m.,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Amy Zaycek, an officer from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center who deployed with CP-18, told Diálogo. “[And the same for] those who have traveled from long distances.”
The medical services received were focused on general medical and specialist care by general surgeons, otolaryngologists, dentists, physical therapists, nutritionists, and other health professionals. In addition, pets received treatment and care from U.S. Army veterinary staff who carried out several sterilization and vaccination programs, among other services.
A festive educational environment
While the mission largely focused on medical support, the arrival of CP-18 got turned into a fair for participants; both volunteers and patients celebrated with music, dancing, and games. The U.S. Navy Fleet Band added to the local residents’ joy, delighting them with its music. The band also held concerts at some area schools, cultural centers, and treatment centers for children with special needs.
“The band is here [in Honduras] to further reach people through music,” Lt. Dixon said. “Music is one of the things that is appreciated and loved by all people, across all walks of life. The band is an essential part of this misión.”
In addition to providing support to those most in need, some units of the mission deployed to different areas in the region to hold health outreach talks on preventive medicine and improve the hygienic and nutritional measures at local schools. Preventive medicine was promoted in conjunction with the local health authorities. CP-18 personnel trained medical students, health workers, and members of the Honduran Red Cross on medical practices and techniques.
Strengthening the bonds of friendship
Initiated in 2007, the mission of Continuous Promise is to organize civil-military programs with partner nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, including humanitarian assistance, health care, dentistry, and veterinary services, as well as natural disaster response. The mission is coordinated in conjunction with U.S. embassies and host country governments and seeks to optimize interoperability and support provided to the neediest communities.
“Working with the U.S. embassies and host countries, locations are picked up based on need and desire for service,” Lt. Dixon explained. “We visit as many countries as we can while still maintaining a large enough time in each to make a positive impact.”
In early April, the USNS Spearhead will dock in Guatemala and then continue on to Colombia for its final stop. The ship takes part in Continuing Promise for the second year in a row.
“The attitude of those who attend the medical brigade was wonderful,” Lt. Cmdr. Zycek concluded. “Their smiles were contagious and the beauty of the people of Honduras shined throughout the day. The Hondurans have welcomed us with open arms throughout the community.”