By: Annabel Gorman
SILVER SPRING, Md. — The US Navy Hospital ship USNS Comfort pulled into The Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia on Dec. 18, marking the end of its 11-week deployment to Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras.
The mission, which included local military personnel based at Montgomery county’s Walter Reed, was part of the U.S Southern Command Enduring Promise Initiative, a partnership between the US and Central and South American countries to help relieve pressure on medical services in the region.
With the increasing number of Venezuelan migrants crossing into neighboring countries, the Comfort staff filled a need for doctors.
“This deployment reflects the United States enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with our partners in the Americas,” said Rear Adm. Sean Buck, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command in a press release.
The Comfort stopped at five sites, each for a week at a time, and “treated over 26,000 patients and conducted approximately 600 surgeries aboard the ship and at land-based sites.”
The Comfort’s deployment was only two and a half months, shorter than a typical six-month hospital ship mission. Because of the short deployment, some medical issues could not be addressed.
“We helped a lot of people, who included Venezuelan migrants, in a short period of time but there were a lot of people with chronic conditions that we couldn’t treat or manage during this type of mission,” said Captain Gregory Gorman, a doctor from Walter Reed that was deployed on the USNS Comfort.
Despite its short mission, The USNS Comfort was able to aid many in need in Central and South America and signifies the continuation of the US’s commitment to their southern neighbors.