Where 'Anchors Aweigh' meets Air Force Blue; USNS Comfort readies to embark
By Airman 1st Class Danielle Grannan , USNS Comfort public affairs
/ Published March 27, 2009
NORFOLK (NNS) -- More than 55 Air Force personnel will contribute to the medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and community relations missions of the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort on its four-month deployment to the U.S. Southern Command area of focus in support of Continuing Promise 2009.
CP09 is a combined effort between partner nations and U.S. humanitarian and relief capabilities, according to Navy Capt. James Ware, commanding officer of the medical treatment facility, USNS Comfort.
The Air Force will be represented on the ship through the work of its participating medical personnel, public affairs team and band members.
Captain Ware explained the joint environment of the Comfort, saying "this is a Navy platform, but we're being supported by our sister services."
Contributing to that partnership in a variety of capacities are 33 Air Force medical providers, 17 Air Force band members and eight Air Force public affairs representatives.
"The Air Force plays a crucial role in Continuing Promise 2009," said Airman 1st Class Benjamin Stratton, a public affairs specialist from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. "I'm sure each member is excited to be part of such a unique deployment. It's a great opportunity to work with the other branches and to experience the joint environment."
The 17 Air Force bandsmen aboard the Comfort are also excited for the opportunity to contribute to this mission, said Capt. Christina Moore-Urutia, commander of the band representing AFSOUTH. The band will perform in different venues throughout the mission for both partner nations, patients and those working on the ship.
"We will play at schools, hospitals, embassies and at public relations events throughout the countries we are visiting," said Airman 1st Class Aaron Kusterer, Air Force bandsman from Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
"The one thing the band brings to the fight is a universal language that crosses all borders. Music has a way of building bridges. When you create a feeling of goodwill, it helps to engender one group to another," explained Captain Moore-Urutia.
"We are sharing expertise between host nation partners," said Col. Scott VanValkenburg, the Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) command surgeon. "This is a unique opportunity to provide medical care in these communities and practice the logistics involved with deploying in support of humanitarian missions."
USNS Comfort serves as an enabling platform through which U.S. military, interagency personnel, partner nations and non-government organizations can coordinate and carry out humanitarian efforts. Comfort is able to rapidly respond to a variety of situations on short notice, and it is uniquely capable of providing health services and engineering support.
CP09 represents a partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean nations who share a common interest in a stable and secure Latin American region. The relationships built and sustained between multinational partners through exercises and professional and military exchanges improve humanitarian efforts and preserve peace and stability in the region.