Doctors, nurses, pre-medical and dental students, translators, professionals with expertise in worldwide operations, to include humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR), Medevac procedures, preventive medicine, climate change, disaster scenario training, etc., came together to get the mission done. They took time from their practices, studies, jobs, and lives, to provide quality care.
They are volunteers from non-federal entities (NFEs), including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academia, think tanks, and businesses, partnering with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to contribute in the deployment of U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort in support of Continuing Promise (CP) 2022, a humanitarian assistance and goodwill mission conducting direct medical care, expeditionary veterinary care, and subject matter expert exchanges in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
“Our partners NFEs are very passionate and committed to the USNS Comfort mission,” said U.S. Navy Commander Angela Roldan-Whitaker, chief Public Private Cooperation (PPC) Branch Partner Integration Division, J7/9, Exercises and Coalition Affairs Directorate at SOUTHCOM.
PPC Branch partners with NFEs that supports SOUTHCOM’s operations, activities, and investments in the Western Hemisphere, sharing similar values of respect for human rights and the rule of law, sovereignty, and democracy.
“Many of our partners NFEs are comprised of volunteers who are immigrants or first-generation immigrants from partner nations in the region, who have attained their professional degree as doctors, nurses, or expert advisors in humanitarian assistance, and have a deep desire to give back to their communities. Other NFE volunteers are professionals who at one point or another have travelled to the region, have witnessed the needs, and are motivated by the immediate effect and lasting impact that these humanitarian missions have on the partner nation population.”
Support in the Western Hemisphere
There are 24 partner NFEs supporting CP22. They are self-sufficient organizations that can readily augment SOUTHCOM’s mission with resources, logistic capabilities, cutting-edge technological advances, and human capital.
According to Cmdr. Roldan-Whitaker, NFEs augmented the USNS Comfort mission with more than 560 licensed independent providers, nurses, and support personnel as well as professional experts on HA/DR to lead or support training and scenarios designed to build partner nation capacity. NFEs provided humanitarian donations valued in thousands of dollars in support of all mission stops in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
Some of NFEs’ partner organizations like the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), the Venezuelan American Medical Association, Global First Responders, Global Outreach Doctors, World Hope International, Operation Blessing, and Haitian Medical Association Abroad provided medical volunteer professionals, subject matter experts, and interpreters. Other partner organizations such as LIFT, Project C.U.R.E, MAP International, Connected Warriors, Good 360, and New Century International delivered donations of medical supplies, medical equipment, and humanitarian goods that will be vital to mission success.
Dean Sutphin, vice Provost for International and Appalachian Outreach for VCOM, was at the medical site in Puerto Cortés, Honduras on November 1, observing all the details of their support. “Our medical school’s mission is focused on global health… We had participated with the USNS Comfort twice before. We signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with SOUTHCOM to do this type of activity, research, education and clinical skills, providing medical expertise and continuing medical education,” Sutphin said.
“It’s a privilege for us to participate in USNS Comfort. It’s an honor that people think well enough about the USNS Comfort and give us the time to come to be seen. We always work in partnership, working through and with the Ministry of Health, with the USNS Comfort, and whoever else is actively involved… We had always found the Honduran population to be extremely gracious, hospitable and very appreciative. It feels like a wonderful partnership to be engaged in a community working with them and for them to know that we’re a permanent part of their medical care and their community,” Sutphin added.
Larry Mullen of the rescue team from World Hope International took part of the USNS Comfort activities with a presentation at the HA/DR seminar held at the Emergency Operational Center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on December 1.
“We primarily do clean water initiatives and things like that, but most importantly, for this operation, we partnered with the USNS Comfort providing disaster, resilience, and capacity building,” said Mullen. “We’re coming down to help do assessments and understanding on disaster response and providing input where there might be shortcomings and opportunities for follow on training. So our goal here as a nonprofit is to find areas where we can find other subject matter experts and plug them in, in the appropriate places to help expand the capabilities here in the Dominican Republic.”
Timotty Tucelli, president of NGO CitiHope International Dominicana, and a founder of the Sanar una Nación, was at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center in Santo Domingo, on December 6, where the USNS Comfort mission was seeing patients.
“When the USNS Comfort comes to the Dominican Republic, it’s very important for us because it’s an opportunity to strengthen the health system in support of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense. We help with translators, which is very important between the U.S. doctor and the Dominican or Haitian patients who are here in the country, so that the diagnosis, the prescription for the medication and treatment required by the patient is very well understood,” said Tosellu. Sanar una Nación provided more than 300 volunteers as English translators in the USNS Comfort mission.