Operation Smile Joins U.S. Navy to Provide Humanitarian Aid

Operation Smile Joins U.S. Navy to Provide Humanitarian Aid

By Dialogo
April 29, 2015




The United States Navy and the Operation Smile organization have joined forces for the seventh time to provide humanitarian aid in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. During the six-month humanitarian mission Continuing Promise, the crew members of hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), Operation Smile volunteers, and U.S. Military service members will provide medical services to children and adults born with facial deformities, such as a cleft palate.

Operation Continuing Promise 2015 (CP-15) is a humanitarian assistance mission and public-spirited effort sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to provide medical treatment to at least 130,000 patients from Belize, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Panama.

“We will be carrying a very full crew, and many of its members are trained specifically in pediatrics," U.S. Navy Captain Christine Sears, Commanding Officer of the Medical Treatment Center on board the Comfort, told Diálogo
on April 13. "Additionally, one of our NGO associates, Operation Smile, will bring a very large contingent to some of the countries."

Operation Smile is one of more than 50 civilian organizations that is participating in the initiative, which runs from April to October. Many of its workers will help patients with the assistance of the Comfort, which departed from Miami on March 5 carrying a diverse crew of about 1,000, including a retinue of 50 volunteer medical professionals. They will perform free surgeries for 400 patients with cleft lips or palate.

The USNS Comfort, one of SOUTHCOM’s two hospital ships, can respond rapidly to a variety of situations on short notice, and has 280 beds in intermediate care units, 80 beds for intensive care units, and 20 beds in recovery rooms. The ship has a total capacity for treating 1,000 patients.

“This ship allows us to go to places we could not otherwise go, places where there are no hospitals. It provides us the infrastructure to operate on children on board the ship,” Rafael Gottenger, a reconstructive surgeon who has partnered with Operation Smile for more than 20 years, told EFE.

Dental and veterinary care also are offered


In addition to providing aid medical and surgical treatments, the U.S. Navy service members and personnel from Operation Smile are also providing dental care to people and veterinary services to animals. The program will also support construction and basic infrastructure projects.

“We are proud to be part of this United States Navy mission,” Operation Smile co-founder Bill Magge said. "We are ready once again to accompany the USNS Comfort crew to bring new smiles to the children of Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic."

“This trip is the most historic one we have undertaken,” said Operation Smile Associate Chief Medical Officer Richard Berlin, a pediatric anesthesiologist who has worked with Operation Smile for 10 years, according to Miami daily El Nuevo Herald
. "The most important thing is that we have cooperation toward what we do from these countries as well as local volunteers."

The projects are carried out in collaboration with local medical professionals, who decide the field in which patients would most benefit from surgery. The program also benefits each country's medical personnel, who increase their knowledge of how to perform the surgery and how to provide post-operative care.

Patients are brought aboard the USNS Comfort either in small boats or one of the ship’s two MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters. After the patients recover, they are discharged from the ship and sent home.

Navy and Operation Smile have teamed up several times


This is the seventh time that Operation Smile has been invited to participate in a humanitarian mission on board a U.S. Navy hospital ship .
Operation Smile has provided more than 640 surgeries on board a U.S. Navy ship, the organization's website reports. The missions include the following:


In 2010, medical volunteers on board the USNS Mercy (T-AH-19), another hospital ship, in Dili, Timor-Leste, gave 56 new smiles to Timorese patients. In addition, the volunteers gave 79 free medical exams and performed 98 medical procedures. The same year, organization volunteers worked alongside the crew of the Comfort in Haiti after the devastating earthquake, performing surgery to save lives and limbs.


In July 2009, Operation Smile joined the Comfort and performed life-changing surgeries for 57 patients in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In June 2008, Operation Smile accompanied the USNS Mercy to the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Papua-New Guinea, where they treated approximately 350 children with cleft lips or palates.

In August 2008, the foundation operated on 29 children in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, together with Navy personnel aboard the USS Kearsarge.

In 2007, Operation Smile joined the Comfort during its humanitarian aid deployment to medical missions in Nicaragua, Peru, and Colombia, where they performed reconstructive surgery on more than 100 children.

In 2006, Operation Smile volunteers participated in the USNS Mercy mission to Chittagong, Bangladesh, where they performed 154 medical check-ups and reconstructive surgery for 54 patients.


Missions help people in remote areas


Operation Smile is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The international non-profit organization has a presence in more than 60 countries and provides physical exams and reconstructive surgery to children and young adults born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided 220,000 free surgeries.

The United States Navy and institutions such as Operation Smile have become closer to populations in remote zones of Central America and the Caribbean, said analyst Daniel Pou, a research associate at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLASCO), in the Dominican Republic.

"Some of these communities would have to wait a year or two to receive the top-quality medical treatments provided by the United States Navy and their partners. This help has come at just the right time for them."

Such medical treatment is part of a policy of solidarity with countries in the region, which helps build a rapport with the civilian population, the analyst explained.



The United States Navy and the Operation Smile organization have joined forces for the seventh time to provide humanitarian aid in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. During the six-month humanitarian mission Continuing Promise, the crew members of hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), Operation Smile volunteers, and U.S. Military service members will provide medical services to children and adults born with facial deformities, such as a cleft palate.

Operation Continuing Promise 2015 (CP-15) is a humanitarian assistance mission and public-spirited effort sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to provide medical treatment to at least 130,000 patients from Belize, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Panama.

“We will be carrying a very full crew, and many of its members are trained specifically in pediatrics," U.S. Navy Captain Christine Sears, Commanding Officer of the Medical Treatment Center on board the Comfort, told Diálogo
on April 13. "Additionally, one of our NGO associates, Operation Smile, will bring a very large contingent to some of the countries."

Operation Smile is one of more than 50 civilian organizations that is participating in the initiative, which runs from April to October. Many of its workers will help patients with the assistance of the Comfort, which departed from Miami on March 5 carrying a diverse crew of about 1,000, including a retinue of 50 volunteer medical professionals. They will perform free surgeries for 400 patients with cleft lips or palate.

The USNS Comfort, one of SOUTHCOM’s two hospital ships, can respond rapidly to a variety of situations on short notice, and has 280 beds in intermediate care units, 80 beds for intensive care units, and 20 beds in recovery rooms. The ship has a total capacity for treating 1,000 patients.

“This ship allows us to go to places we could not otherwise go, places where there are no hospitals. It provides us the infrastructure to operate on children on board the ship,” Rafael Gottenger, a reconstructive surgeon who has partnered with Operation Smile for more than 20 years, told EFE.

Dental and veterinary care also are offered


In addition to providing aid medical and surgical treatments, the U.S. Navy service members and personnel from Operation Smile are also providing dental care to people and veterinary services to animals. The program will also support construction and basic infrastructure projects.

“We are proud to be part of this United States Navy mission,” Operation Smile co-founder Bill Magge said. "We are ready once again to accompany the USNS Comfort crew to bring new smiles to the children of Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic."

“This trip is the most historic one we have undertaken,” said Operation Smile Associate Chief Medical Officer Richard Berlin, a pediatric anesthesiologist who has worked with Operation Smile for 10 years, according to Miami daily El Nuevo Herald
. "The most important thing is that we have cooperation toward what we do from these countries as well as local volunteers."

The projects are carried out in collaboration with local medical professionals, who decide the field in which patients would most benefit from surgery. The program also benefits each country's medical personnel, who increase their knowledge of how to perform the surgery and how to provide post-operative care.

Patients are brought aboard the USNS Comfort either in small boats or one of the ship’s two MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters. After the patients recover, they are discharged from the ship and sent home.

Navy and Operation Smile have teamed up several times


This is the seventh time that Operation Smile has been invited to participate in a humanitarian mission on board a U.S. Navy hospital ship .
Operation Smile has provided more than 640 surgeries on board a U.S. Navy ship, the organization's website reports. The missions include the following:


In 2010, medical volunteers on board the USNS Mercy (T-AH-19), another hospital ship, in Dili, Timor-Leste, gave 56 new smiles to Timorese patients. In addition, the volunteers gave 79 free medical exams and performed 98 medical procedures. The same year, organization volunteers worked alongside the crew of the Comfort in Haiti after the devastating earthquake, performing surgery to save lives and limbs.


In July 2009, Operation Smile joined the Comfort and performed life-changing surgeries for 57 patients in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In June 2008, Operation Smile accompanied the USNS Mercy to the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Papua-New Guinea, where they treated approximately 350 children with cleft lips or palates.

In August 2008, the foundation operated on 29 children in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, together with Navy personnel aboard the USS Kearsarge.

In 2007, Operation Smile joined the Comfort during its humanitarian aid deployment to medical missions in Nicaragua, Peru, and Colombia, where they performed reconstructive surgery on more than 100 children.

In 2006, Operation Smile volunteers participated in the USNS Mercy mission to Chittagong, Bangladesh, where they performed 154 medical check-ups and reconstructive surgery for 54 patients.


Missions help people in remote areas


Operation Smile is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The international non-profit organization has a presence in more than 60 countries and provides physical exams and reconstructive surgery to children and young adults born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided 220,000 free surgeries.

The United States Navy and institutions such as Operation Smile have become closer to populations in remote zones of Central America and the Caribbean, said analyst Daniel Pou, a research associate at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLASCO), in the Dominican Republic.

"Some of these communities would have to wait a year or two to receive the top-quality medical treatments provided by the United States Navy and their partners. This help has come at just the right time for them."

Such medical treatment is part of a policy of solidarity with countries in the region, which helps build a rapport with the civilian population, the analyst explained.
The truth is the care provided to patients with malformations is very humane. Thanks to the volunteer professionals and everyone involved. Blessings. I will continue to support the Foundation. I would like to know how to find out about or how to register my baby in the program or the foundation. He is a newborn with two problems from a cleft lip and cleft palate. My baby is still in the hospital because he was born with an infection but they will release him to me in about 10 days, and I need to know how I can help my baby. I thank you very much in advance. I am from San Salvador, El Salvador. Question: Do they operate on kids from Argentina? How can we get that kids from here can be seen and operated on? Thank you. I want to know what help is offered to children with cleft palate. Please list the number to call. Thank you
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