More than 40 doctors and engineers from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Colombian Military Forces came together in late August to carry out mission Continuing Promise 2023, which on this occasion benefited more than 11,000 people from the most vulnerable communities of the Caribbean coast of Colombia in the cities of Santa Marta, Magdalena department, and Riohacha, La Guajira department. During its visit to Colombia, mission members exchanged medical and biomedical equipment engineering knowledge, and carried out academic, artistic, and building repair activities that benefited communities in need.
“The brotherhood that has united Colombia and the United States for years is strengthened annually with this important mission Continuing Promise that is continuously developing, strengthening the health care capacity of Colombian communities,” said U.S. Navy Captain Suzanna Brugler, head of the Naval Mission, during the inaugural ceremony. “This not only includes medical care by the U.S. Navy, but also the strengthening of medical knowledge and practice through expert exchanges in different medical specialties, as this year’s mission includes.”
Mission Continuing Promise, carried out by military personnel, medical professionals, representatives of the civilian population, and nongovernmental organizations, seeks to consolidate and strengthen ties between partner countries. It also strengthens training in equipment maintenance and ensures the sustainable development of the region.
“The U.S. specialists deployed the USNS Burlington on the waters of the Caribbean Sea, and together with Colombian Military Forces units, arrived to bring health and welfare to this population,” the Colombian Navy said in a statement. “Through the U.S. mission’s technical staff of naval engineers, we carried out maintenance of biomedical equipment and dental units of different health facilities with the personnel of the project; infrastructure maintenance work was also conducted in educational institutions, such as the Mazarelo School where the school library was refurbished, and in the La Castellana Clinic and Santa Cruz village of Riohacha,” Colombian Navy Captain Julián Cuartas López, commander of the Caribbean Coast Guard Group, told the press.
In Riohacha, Guajira, a department declared in economic and social emergency due to the effects of the El Niño phenomenon, the mission benefitted 2,384 people through humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, medical workshops, specialized care in dentistry, psychology, gynecology, pediatrics, physiotherapy, vaccination, pharmacy, and animal health, among others.
In Santa Marta, Continuing Promise benefited 9,085 people through medical exchanges, maintenance of biomedical and dental equipment, as well as training and first aid certifications. In this city, Colombian specialists from the Julio Méndez Barreneche University Hospital, the La Castellana Clinic, and the Bastidas Health Center exchanged experiences with U.S. professionals, the Colombian Navy indicated.
“Training in first aid was also given to Colombian Military Forces personnel and personnel of the maritime guild of Santa Marta, benefiting more than 100 people,” Capt. Cuartas told the press. “Likewise, as part of the commitment to promote the involvement of women in all areas, a space was opened for a women’s symposium, where topics such as peace and security from the perspective of gender equity were addressed.”
The programmed activities included a veterinary exchange with personnel from the Military Forces and the National Police. There were also cultural events such as the presentation in Santa Marta of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band accompanied by the city’s music band, an event that was attended by more than 300 people at the Santa Marta Theater.
“Each of these activities contributed to the benefit of the most vulnerable people in this region of Colombia,” Capt. Cuartas said. “In general terms we can conclude that what we had planned for the development of mission Continuing Promise in Santa Marta and Riohacha was accomplished; and we were able to accomplish it thanks to teamwork.”