USS Boxer makes voyage to El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru
Washington -- The USS Boxer returned home to San Diego on June 27 after a two-month humanitarian journey, visiting Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru to provide medical care and construction help to thousands of people in need.
Volunteer medics, backed up by the ship's military personnel, treated 24,000 patients in the three countries, dispensed nearly 40,000 prescriptions and taught 123 classes in preventive medicine and industrial hygiene. More than 2,800 livestock were treated by veterinarians traveling with the ship.
“I couldn't be happier with the success of this mission,” said Captain Peter K. Dallman, the mission commander for the Pacific phase of an operation known as Continuing Promise 2008. “Everyone did great across the board, and we far surpassed anyone's expectations of the overall success of this mission.”
Continuing Promise 2008, of which the Boxer is part, involves collaboration between the United States and support groups from the host countries to provide humanitarian assistance.
“Providing access to medical information and treatment supports common medical needs in the region,” said Dr. Louis Orosz, commander of the Continuing Promise Medical Contingent. “Their work here will last generations and leave a lasting impression of the great things the United States can do.”
Personnel from the USS Boxer had many different tasks. As one group of medics treated patients, a Seabees construction team renovated eight schools and a church, repaired sewage systems and provided running water to most of the project sites. Boxer personnel collected water samples to test for parasites and investigated the quality and safety of a landfill.
“This is the first time that the USS Boxer is on a humanitarian mission,” said Albert Rodriguez, information officer at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. “The purpose of the ship is usually to transport 2,000 to 3,000 Marines to fight and take care of casualties.”
The vessel is one of eight in the Navy's fleet of large amphibious assault ships designed to land troops in hostile territory and evacuate wounded soldiers. Among its past missions, the USS Boxer was used to transport Marines to Iraq.
For the last two months, though, the mission has been quite different. The ship was part of a U.S. maritime strategy that emphasizes deploying forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests, according to the Navy.
The Boxer follows the USNS Comfort, a Navy medical ship, which previously has been to these countries providing assistance. The USS Kearsarge will conduct a humanitarian mission in the Caribbean.
On this just-completed journey, there were 150 military and civilian medical personnel.
In Peru, medical personnel and Peruvian medical professionals conducted more than 4,000 dental exams and procedures and nearly 1,000 eye exams. They gave out 900 pairs of eye glasses, according to Navy officials.
In Guatemala, medical personnel conducted more than 5,000 dental exams and procedures, nearly 1,300 optometry exams and 45 surgeries, provided more than 7,000 patients with medical care and filled more than 8,000 prescriptions, according to the Navy.
Patients were treated for a wide variety of conditions and benefited from various surgeries, including cyst and gallbladder removal, hernia repair and eye surgery, which included operations for cataracts. Some of the surgical patients were flown to the USS Boxer by helicopter; they usually stayed overnight on the ship as they recovered, according to Rodriguez.
“There were a lot of people who otherwise would not have had as ready access to this type of care,” Rodriguez said.