Equipment Operator 2nd Class Elijah Godbold, a native of Augusta, Ga., Assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, takes a photo with host nation children during a U.S. Band concert during Continuing Promise 2017 (CP-17) in Trujillo, Honduras. CP-17 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian assistance, training engagements, medical, dental, and veterinary support in an effort to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)
By Rindi White
A Honduran girl is able to attend school without fear of being bullied, thanks to efforts from members of the joint military mission Continuing Promise 2017. She’s one of thousands who have been helped by the mission so far.
According to reports on the mission at Navy.mil, dermatologist Lt. Cmdr. Lesley Hawley treated Consuela Mirandez, from Honduras, for a pyogenic granuloma on her nose. The girl said she was afraid to go to school because the two-centimeter growth, a benign tumor made of blood vessels that would have continued to grow unless removed, was causing her to be bullied.
Hawley reportedly consulted with the girl’s mother and removed the tumor in a 20-minute procedure.
“It was rewarding and an honor to have the opportunity to change a life, which leaves a lasting impact on the patient and me,” Hawley said. The dermatologist is attached to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia.
“After the surgery, we pulled out a phone and set it on selfie mode so she could see herself. That smile was worth the whole trip,” Hawley said.
The team has stopped in two locations: Puerto Barrios, Guatemala and Trujillo, Honduras. It also plans to stop in Columbia before the three-month mission is completed. The stops are part of an important humanitarian mission to provide medical, dental and veterinary support in an effort to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America.
Since the team of 169 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps service members departed Naval Station Mayport, Florida, on Jan. 26, they have had a combined 12,909 patient encounters. That number includes 3,657 dental encounters, 3,417 adult medicine, 2,013 pediatric, 1,625 optometric, 669 gynecological, 519 dermatological and 435 physical therapy visits, according to reports from Navy.mil.
The team also treated Bessy Medina, a woman who lived 40 minutes by bus from Trujillo and made the trip for the chance to be treated. Medina had a cyst on her wrist, which caused her pain during everyday tasks. Using ultrasound-guided drainage, doctors were able to treat the cyst and relieve her pain.
“It was great that we were able to treat her; by having radiology work closely with primary care, we were able to offer top-quality service without a lengthy referral process,” said Continuing Promise 2017’s medical officer in charge, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Lennon.
In addition to human health encounters, veterinarians treated 1,493 animals, environmental health and medical professionals participated in 135 knowledge exchange and training events, musicians from the U.S. Fleet Forces Band performed in 36 concerts and service members were involved in 16 community relations projects.
The community relation projects, or COMRELs, included visits to orphanages, evenings of cultural exchange, a beach clean-up project and painting a Honduran elementary school.
“I just wanted to give back to the community,” said Builder 2nd Class Richard Hanna, from Baltimore. Hanna is assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 and participated in repainting an elementary school in Puerto Castillo, Honduras.
“These kinds of projects really open your eyes and make you realize the things you take for granted back in the States. I met some new friends here, good people I’ve created bonds with. I am just glad I got the opportunity to experience this country,” Hanna told Navy.mil reporters.
Capt. Errin Armstrong, the Continuing Promise 2017 mission commander, said projects such as Continuing Promise help build partnerships in Central and South America.
"This year's Continuing Promise mission is its seventh iteration in a span of 10 years, and our visit to Guatemala will be the sixth during the same period of cooperation," Armstrong said during Continuing Promise’s opening ceremony Feb. 2 in Puerto Barrios.
"Through Continuing Promise's spirit of teamwork, all of us have the unique opportunity to enhance our medical, dental, and veterinary capabilities on a local and global scale,” he said.
The U.S. Southern Command and the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet sponsor the mission. It began in 2007, providing medical, engineering, veterinary and humanitarian assistance at select countries. This is the seventh Continuing Promise mission. The effort is aimed at strengthening partnerships and improving cooperation on many levels with partner nations, interagency organizations and nongovernmental organizations.
"During Continuing Promise 2017 we will continue to work and train side-by-side with doctors and nurses; government agencies, including the ministry of health; Guatemalan military forces; and countless volunteers from the community and international aid organizations," Armstrong said. "Together through these partnerships, we will help communities develop the ability to meet their own needs on a daily basis while leaving a tangible positive impact on the people we help."
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns.