Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ahoy, eh! From the Canadian Medical Contingent in KEARSARGE!

The third and last Canadian contingent has arrived! And not only did the crew make us feel at home, but so did the Commanding Officer of the USS Kearsarge, Captain Towns, when he announced it over the one MC, the ship’s PA system. Furthermore, the Mission Commander of Operation Continuing Promise, Commodore Ponds, also addressed the third Canadian contingent along with other foreign nationals onboard. It was obvious that our Canadian Health Services predecessors had left a good impression.

The 13 Canadian Forces Health Services personnel come from all over Canada and all volunteered to take part in this unique opportunity to work with our allies, to provide care to underserved countries and to exercise professional skills. The contingent consists of six medical technicians; Sgt Christopher Thomas, MCpl Sonia Blaha, MCpl Mathew Macauley, Cpl Jason Foote, Cpl Karine Boulay, Cpl Isabelle Gauthier-Simard, three nurses; Capt. Karen Roden, Capt. Bryan Giles and SLt Megin Marshall, one dentist; Capt. Barbara Brigadier, one dental technician; Cpl Lucienne Ouellette, one physician; LCol Ross Purcer, LCol Ross Purcer, and one health care administrator; Capt. Sandy Haley.

Capt. Bryan Giles says of his experience so far, “I was impressed with the size of the ship and passage-ways as well as the friendliness of the crew.” He, and a number of other Canadians were welcomed to dinner with the Commodore while at sea transiting to Trinidad from Curacao.

Canada’s team of health professionals is eager to cooperate with our American counterparts and practice skills on the ground. Not only is this deployment a great way to encourage regional partnership, but it will also enable Canadian Forces Health Services professionals to develop professionally and personally in a challenging and rewarding environment. We would like to thank the USS Kearsarge for offering us the opportunity to participate in this deployment and for the warm welcoming. We are excited to be here and look forward to the rest of the deployment. By: LT Crystal Myers

This blog was recommended and approved for posting by CDRE Frank Ponds. “ I feel there to be no better way to integrate this magnificent team of Partner Nations embarked in support of this mission than to allow them to present their perspectives.” Although we often find is easy to consider and accept one’s action from their own point of view; it is much more beneficial to view it through the lens of others. - CDRE Ponds

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hitting Our Stride!

The sun set on a day far different from the one originally envisioned due to circumstances, weather, and friendships. The friendships forged here in Dominican Repubic, and on Kearsarge, shaped this to into a very memorable and adventurous day. I started off in Sabana Grande. Our engineers are building seahuts at the local elementary school. They industriously hammer and saw under the hot sun, also constructing a playground and a basketball court.
In Sabana Grande, Project Handclasp donated soccer balls and textbooks. A ceremony was held in a little white gazebo in the middle of town, where the Governor and Mayor, the Director of Education and the school principal, parents and students ran to welcome us. They were so appreciative that they planned a spectacular ceremony for us, complete with teenagers entertaining us with local dances and music, and speeches all around. After the ceremony the Governor took us to a local restaurant for lunch, where we discussed other ways to lend our assistance.
I then drove through palm tree farms and over mountains to one of our medical sites in Bayaguana. Our medical teams have been quite busy, treating approximately 1,200 patients each day. When we reached the medical site, a daily thunderstorm rolled through and it became impossible for our helicopters to reach us to whisk us back to Kearsarge. With quick thinking and teamwork, we bussed the medical teams two hours back to Santa Domingo where our LCU boat met us to take us back to Kearsarge under the moonlit sky.
Although the day ended later than expected, I was glad to see firsthand the appreciative faces of schoolchildren and parents, educators and doctors, as they accepted our help and Project Handclasp donations. The people of Dominican Republic value family and friendships as much as we do in America – this shared belief is what drives us all to work late into the night. Bouncing through the waves on the LCU to Kearsarge, I can only marvel at the hard work of our crewembers who scrambled to get the medical teams back home for a good night sleep, so they can awake before dawn and begin anew. We are at the half point of the deployment and our mission in DOMREP. But you could not tell by the enthusiasm around the ship and in the field. We continue to have more volunteers that we have projects and out HN continue to demonstrate an out pour of support not experienced in any other previous countries. We will soon celebrate our 233rd Navy Birthday and what a celebration it is….seafarers on and all. What a difference a day makes, what a difference in deed!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Getting Started . . .

Our first day here in Dominican Republic was a great success. I took an orientation flight to different sites where Continuing Promise will be providing medical care and building structures for the Dominicans. The flight illuminated a beautiful country, with rolling hills and a sunny shoreline. I attended a welcoming ceremony in the morning. The CP Team Leaders, along with Ambassador Fannin and other military and civilian personnel from the U.S. Embassy were greeted by a marching band; very exciting with lots of pomp and circumstances. Our hosts included the COS for the Navy along with other senior naval officers from the Dominican Republic. Our mission and our message is clear, we are here to help the government of DOMREP provide essential care and support to its citizens.
Our engineering team was greeted by a spectacular site in the town of Sabana Grande, where they are building a playground and seahuts at the elementary school named Escuela Basica Presbitero Carlos Novel. The assistant to the Mayor met our engineers when they landed and escorted them to the school. Upon arriving, a pickup truck’s loud speaker system circling the area announced of the arrival of Continuing Promise, encouraging the townspeople to come out and welcome us.
The Engineers spent time with the school leaders surveying the construction site followed by a small ceremony hosted by the Mayor, Sindico Marcos Tavarez, and the local pastor, Chief of Police, principal and staff of the school, parents and students. In total, approximately 800 people were present. The Mayor spoke at length about how much this project and America’s presence meant to the community, and asked local volunteers to partner with Continuing Promise and work along side us.
The many warm and heartfelt welcomes we received today hearten us all, and show once again that we are touching many lives. We are on a mission of providing assistance to those in need; our friends, and our neighbors in the Dominican Republic. It is a mission that will strengthen relations while furthering stability, security and prosperity within the region. We are here; there is much to be done, and we are eager to get started. Time, as always, is of the essence, and we have none to waste; so let us be about the task at hand.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Short Breather

For the past three days, Kearsarge and her crew have enjoyed some much needed liberty. We were in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the weather was beautiful. Our crew relaxed for a few days and explored the city of San Juan. Kearsarge organized tours of old San Juan forts and a tropical rainforest. Some sailors swam in the ocean; others joined me for a game of golf, where one of my junior officers gave me a run for my money, beating me by seven strokes; or did I let him win? No, too competitive, he won. All were happy to relax and feel the warm sun on their faces. We tasted the local cuisine; a popular Puerto Rican dish is mufungo – smashed plantains mixed with different meats or seafood. This was a well-deserved break, and I was happy to see everyone relax and to hear their laughter ringing through the old cobblestone streets of San Juan. Puerto Rico has lots of history and it has lots of character, and we were happy to be able to experience both.
Kearsarge departed San Juan early this morning for Dominican Republic. In 1496 Santo Domingo became Europe’s first permanent settlement in the New World, and today they rely on the United States to receive 75 percent of their exports. Although the mission will be the same, the dynamics are slightly different. Our emphasis will be on the partnering of existing capabilities and working together to deliver our unique capabilities to those in need.
The DOMREP mission promises to be as rewarding for Continuing Promise as Nicaragua and Colombia. Our medical teams will visit three sites to provide medical, dental and veterinarian care. Doctors will also engage in surgical screenings at outlying sites, and patients will be brought back to Kearsarge for onboard surgeries. Our engineering teams will also be busy building playgrounds and seahuts for the local elementary schools. With able bodied assistance of KEARSARGE’s Sailors, we will execute numerous community relations projects, conduct subject matter expert exchanges with their military and establish new friendships and relationships.
Tonight is a busy night of confirming plans, as operations begin tomorrow with the rising of the sun. We are ready to resume Continuing Promise, and everyone is eager to hit the ground running tomorrow. There is much to do, so let us be about our business.