USS Boxer (LHD 4), along with various embarked units, returned to San Diego June 26 concluding nearly two months at sea in support of the Pacific phase of Continuing Promise 2008.
Continuing Promise is a collaborative effort between the United States and military partners, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and partner-nation support organizations to build strong partnerships that can be called upon in the event of a regional situation requiring cooperative solutions.
The Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) mission provided partner nations in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of focus a mobile, flexible and rapidly responsive medical and engineering capability for a number of missions and training opportunities in Central and South America.
“I couldn’t be happier with the success of this mission,” said Capt. Peter K. Dallman, the mission commander for the Pacific phase of Continuing Promise 2008. “Everyone did great across the board and we far surpassed anyone’s expectations of the overall success of this mission.”
During the mission, Boxer operated in Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. The Continuing Promise medical contingent provided more than 65,000 patient encounters to 24,000 patients, including medical or veterinarian care and education. The assistance included dispensing nearly 40,000 prescriptions, treating more than 2,800 animals in addition to teaching 123 classes in preventative medicine and industrial hygiene.
While anchored off the coasts of the three countries, 127 patients were flown to Boxer for shipboard surgeries. Surgeries included cyst and gallbladder removal, hernia repair and eye surgery (cataract excision).
“Providing access to medical information and treatment supports common medical needs in the region,” said the Continuing Promise Medical Contingent Commander, Capt. (Dr.) Louis Orosz. “The team of medical professionals this mission has brought together is top-notch. Their work here will last generations and leave a lasting impression of the great things the United States can do.”
Wasp-class amphibious assault ships like Boxer are designed with a variety of expeditionary mission capabilities, including rapid, projected humanitarian assistance worldwide. They also have the physical capacity to transport large amounts of medical and engineering supplies and equipment to most locations around the globe. The same flexibility and configuration that makes Boxer an effective warship also makes it an extraordinarily effective ship for performing humanitarian assistance missions. This multipurpose flexibility allowed Boxer to uniquely meet the engineering needs of the three partner-nations through structure renovations, constructions and repairs.
Seabees from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 and Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, embarked aboard Boxer, renovated eight schools and a church across the three countries in addition to road and drainage repair.
Renovation work included roofing, installing new windows and installing new ceiling fans. The Seabees also repaired the sewage systems and provided running water to most of the facilities.
“In the Seabee community, we always say we ‘Can Do’,” said Lt. Micah Kiletico, the officer-in-charge of the CBMU 303 detachment aboard Boxer. “But the group of Seabees I’ve worked with on Continuing Promise 2008 have gone above and beyond, giving 200 percent effort. They went the extra mile to ensure they made a big difference in the lives of the citizens of Central and South America.”
The Pacific Phase of Continuing Promise is one of two HCA deployments planned for the USSOUTHCOM area of focus for 2008. The second Continuing Promise deployment will be conducted by USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) in the Caribbean. The deployment to the region is part of the Partnership of the Americas initiative. The training, clinical and engineering capability this mission brought to the region demonstrates U.S. commitment to fostering cooperative partnerships.
“It really has been an honor to visit the Navy ship that has been making a positive impact that we can see already in our country,” said El Salvador President, Elias Antonio Saca during a press conference in El Salvador. “We appreciate all the humanitarian support the United States, the Navy, the Captain and the entire crew of this important ship has brought. We profoundly appreciate your support for our inhabitants.”
For many service members embarked aboard Boxer for Continuing Promise, it was their first humanitarian mission. Continuing Promise offered them a unique opportunity to see the impact their skill sets can have in a humanitarian civic assistance role.
“I hope the people we worked with know there are people back in the United States who really care for them,” said Utilitiesman 1st Class (SCW) James Kocsis. “Supporting this mission has been the greatest honor I’ve had in my entire Navy career.”
Continuing Promise exemplifies the U.S. maritime strategy, which emphasizes deploying forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests.
Embarked units and organizations aboard Boxer for Continuing Promise included Amphibious Squadron 5, Fleet Surgical Team 5, U.S. Public Health Service, Project HOPE, Project Handclasp, Navy Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 764, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, Special Marine Air Ground Task Force 24, Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron 23, Assault Craft Unit 1, Fleet Survey Team, Maritime Civil Affairs Team 205 and Beach Master Unit 1.