ESMERALDAS, Ecuador – More than 900 personnel of the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) began their first mission stop in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, on October 20.
The Comfort is in Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative, an 11-week medical assistance mission.
Medical personnel engaged with patients Saturday as they moved through the medical screening process to receive care at the established medical sites. Throughout the week, military and non-governmental organization volunteers will work alongside partner nation medical personnel to provide no-cost medical and dental services to local communities.
The two medical sites, located at Autoridad Portuaria and Universidad Técnica Luis Vargas Torres de la Esmeraldas, became fully operational on October 22. Teams will then provide medical and dental services, including preventative treatments, optometry, dermatology, women’s health, adult medicine, pediatrics, dental and surgical screening.
According to the Navy, this is the sixth time the Comfort has deployed to the area. In past missions, more than 390,000 patients have received medical treatment, including 6,000 surgeries.
“Even the name of this mission, Enduring Promise, says that not only do we want to be here, we want to come back,” said Lt. Cmdr. Derek Austin, officer-in-charge of one of two medical sites. “We are going to try and do a fantastic job and set the tone that we will do this, we’ll do it again, and that we are friends and allies.”
During Enduring Promise, the Comfort’s medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites in an effort to help relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The mission reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.