USA/El Salvador

USS Box­er Sup­ports ‘Con­tin­u­ing Promise’ in El Sal­vador

By Navy Lt. Jen­nifer Cragg
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2008 — Dur­ing the Memo­r­i­al Day Week­end, while Amer­i­cans remem­ber the sac­ri­fices and com­mit­ments of ser­vice­mem­bers, the crew of USS Box­er will also be mak­ing sac­ri­fices as the ship par­tic­i­pates in the Pacif­ic phase of Con­tin­u­ing Promise 2008, a Human­i­tar­i­an civic-assis­tance mis­sion in Latin Amer­i­ca.

The mis­sion “reflects the Unit­ed States’ com­mit­ment to our part­ners in Latin Amer­i­ca, [by] work­ing side by side with the coun­tries of El Sal­vador and Guatemala with their med­ical pro­fes­sion­als, and their engi­neers as well,” Navy Capt. Peter Dall­man, com­man­der of Amphibi­ous Squadron 5, told online jour­nal­ists and blog­gers in a con­fer­ence call today.

On April 28, the Box­er crew left San Diego accom­pa­nied by med­ical pro­fes­sion­als from 25 dif­fer­ent com­mands from around the world. In addi­tion to the aug­ment­ed med­ical team, mem­bers from the U.S. Pub­lic Health Ser­vice and the non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion Project Hope also accom­pa­nied the crew on the two-month human­i­tar­i­an mis­sion.

“We have 40 med­ical pro­fes­sion­als nor­mal­ly; we’ve aug­ment­ed that with anoth­er 125-plus health care pro­fes­sion­als across the broad spec­trum of optom­e­try, oph­thal­mol­o­gy, den­tal care, inter­nal med­i­cine, pri­ma­ry care, and corps­men. Those folks are con­duct­ing clin­ics ashore, basi­cal­ly one main med­ical clin­ic a day,” Dall­man said.

In addi­tion to health care providers, 60 Seabees from Navy Seabee Con­struc­tion Bat­tal­ion Main­te­nance Unit 303 also are accom­pa­ny­ing the crew.

“[They] will be con­duct­ing small-grade con­struc­tion projects ashore and work­ing on reroof­ing elec­tri­cal, plumb­ing, [installing] win­dows and screens to schools and church­es,” Dall­man explained.

He added that the help has been very warm­ly received by the peo­ple of Guatemala and El Sal­vador.

“I think there is cer­tain­ly a need here, and we also have learned much from the folks that we’ve been work­ing with and been treat­ing,” he said. “There has been an over­whelm­ing, sin­cere appre­ci­a­tion for our efforts and our com­mit­ment to their coun­tries and their peo­ple, and that has been very grat­i­fy­ing.”

Diebold said that, on aver­age, the team is treat­ing 600 or 700 patients a day in areas of den­tal, optom­e­try, and pri­ma­ry care. In Guatemala, they saw more than 5,000 pri­ma­ry care patients. To date, they have per­formed 67 surg­eries, includ­ing remov­ing cataracts, appen­dec­tomies, and her­nia repairs.

In addi­tion, the Box­er crew has hand­ed out close to a 1,000 pairs of eye­glass­es in Guatemala and has seen more than 2,000 optom­e­try patients. The crew also has treat­ed close to 1,500 ani­mals.

Box­er has had expe­ri­ence in offer­ing human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance in their pri­or deploy­ments. Dall­man not­ed that dur­ing an Octo­ber-Novem­ber 2006 deploy­ment, the crew vol­un­teered to sup­port a Habi­tat for Human­i­ty project to build sin­gle-fam­i­ly homes in Lon­avala, India. The sailors also vol­un­teered for com­mu­ni­ty-ser­vice projects in Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia.

The deploy­ment is sched­uled to last through June.

(Navy Lt. Jen­nifer Cragg works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activ­i­ty.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)