Humanitarian Mission Southern Partnership Station 2017 Visits Honduras

U.S. and Honduran service members restore schools, drill wells, and conduct diving exercises.
Iris Amador/Diálogo | 21 November 2017

Divers from the U.S. and Honduran militaries conducted search and rescue exercises in the Caribbean waters of Honduras. (Photo: Honduran Navy Lieutenant Milton Meza Sánchez)

Under the sponsorship of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO) successfully concluded the humanitarian mission Southern Partnership Station 2017 (SPS 17), in Honduras. U.S. military personnel, local authorities, and members of the Honduran Armed Forces carried out social work and military exercises that strengthened alliances through solidarity, collaboration, and exchanges of information.

“Honduras and the United States have a proud history of defense and cooperation in many areas, such as operations to counter illicit trafficking, humanitarian aid missions, and civil action projects,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Rick Moore, public relations officer for SPS 17, told Diálogo. “This is an opportunity for our multiservice team to work with our Honduran military colleagues and strengthen our relations.”

The USNS Spearhead, flagship for SPS 17, set sail from Gulfport, Mississippi, in mid-July. It brought medical supplies as well as construction materials and equipment amounting to about 400 tons of humanitarian aid.

The U.S. ship arrived in Honduras, its first port call, on July 24th and remained until September 4th, then set sail for Guatemala. The SPS 17 schedule also included missions in Chile and Colombia.

Benefits for the community

In Honduras, Honduran Navy Lieutenant Commander Gilberto Morales, commander of Puerto Castilla Naval Base, welcomed USNAVSO service members with honors. The hosts made security boats and escort personnel available to the SPS 17 personnel for all their deployments in country.

“Having them in our country was an excellent experience for us. They are a team of professionals with a great sense of service and responsibility, which benefited our personnel on base and more importantly, the community,” Lt. Cmdr. Morales told Diálogo. “They helped our town repair schools and worked with medical staff at Trujillo Public Hospital.”

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Auten, an ER doctor, communicates with a patient’s mother through an interpreter. (Photo: U.S. Army Sergeant Crystal Madriz)

The SPS 17 teams carried out restoration and painting work in nine schools in the area of Trujillo and Tocoa. They also drilled wells to provide water to the communities of Bonito Oriental, Cilín, and Jericó—all municipalities in the department of Colón. In addition, medical specialists held lectures and training opportunities with doctors and nurses at Salvador Paredes Hospital.

“The main areas of interest for the Honduran medical staff were issues relating to women’s health, entomology, potable water, and pediatric care,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Auten, emergency medicine residency assistant director at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, told Diálogo. “We had a group of 14 U.S. Navy personnel working on these issues with Honduran service members and sharing their experiences in complex medical settings.”

Military exercises

The personnel at Puerto Castilla Naval Base also received training for combat missions and civilian operations. “In this exchange with Honduran health providers, I found we had a shared passion for pediatric care, so that children can reach their full potential,” Lt. Cmdr. Auten said. “Our American friends gave our guys training on first aid to improve their response capacity,” Lt. Cmdr. Morales added.

U.S. Navy divers trained students at the Naval Training Center to help them improve their abilities in search and rescue procedures. Orientations on how to maintain equipment and operate a hyperbaric chamber complemented the exercises.

“I can’t emphasize enough the value of this deployment for the Honduran Armed Forces, their citizens, and the strong relationship between our nations,” said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Joshua Perry, commander of SPS 17 ground mission. “With limited resources, including time in port, we were able to impact a significant percentage of the population through our community projects.”

Before leaving, the crew of USNS Spearhead delivered a shipment of medical supplies to the Honduran Ministry of Health in Trujillo. The donation consisted of gloves, hospital gowns, hydrating solutions, and a mannequin for CPR training.

“The Honduran people are grateful for visits like this,” Captain Héctor Tercero López, chief of staff of the Honduran Navy, added. “Such support is for our compatriots. All these exercises and partnerships allow us to fulfill our mission to protect the nation, fight narcotrafficking, and ensure that our people can live in peace and harmony,” he concluded.

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