Coast Guard joins Navy humanitarian mission

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Coast Guard medical team
HS1 Chris Lisk, LTJG Jeff McCroskey, HSC Bob Spicer, and LTJG Chris Hughes stand in front of a Marine Corps CH-46 while aboard the USS Iwo Jima in support of Continuing Promise. Photo courtesy of LTJG Jeff McCroskey.

Coast Guard medical personnel are aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) as part of the Navy’s annual humanitarian and civic assistance deployment, Continuing Promise 2010.

Physicians Assistants LTJG Jeff McCroskey and LTJG Chris Hughes along with Chief Health Services Technician Bob Spicer and Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Lisk boarded the amphibious ship in Columbia on Oct. 10. For 30 days, the medical team is working with other U.S. military personnel, partner nations’ forces and civilian relief volunteers to provide medical care and infrastructure improvements in Guyana and Suriname as part of a four-month, eight nation mission.

LTJG Jeff McCroskey
LTJG Jeff McCroskey examines a Guyanese patient for a collarbone injury Oct. 19, 2010. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Morgan E. Dial, U.S. Navy.

“As medical professionals, it was rewarding to be able to help people who don’t normally have access to modern medical care,” said Hughes. “Being able to contribute to the mission as a representative of the Coast Guard is an honor. All five services are onboard and it is certainly nice to be a part of that team.”

Continuing Promise is both a humanitarian civic assistance (HCA) and humanitarian assistance and disaster response mission, the latter demonstrated with its rapid response capability to support Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Tomas. The HCA mission brings medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support to communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. The joint services deployment offers planning and coordination training for military personnel while providing valuable services to communities in need.

“It is impressive to see the morale of the crew on the ship and the work they are doing,” said McCroskey. “The long hours can be exhausting, but the mission is rewarding and the level of respect among our service partners is inspiring.”

USS Iwo Jima
The USS Iwo Jima coasts around the southern claw of Haiti, Nov. 6, in preparation for tentative disaster relief efforts to the region in support of the government of Haiti, MINUSTAH and USAID. U.S. Marine Corpos photo by Cpl. Alicia R. Giron

The ship was sent to Haiti on Nov. 1 to provide assistance should it be needed after Hurricane Tomas. Iwo Jima and other U.S. forces, including CGC Forward and CGC Confidence, were forward deployed to the region to support the Government of Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and the United States Agency for International Relief (USAID).

Spicer and Lisk flew on Marine Corps and Navy helicopters as flight corpsman to conduct storm damage assessments on Haiti following the storm.

“People seemed to be getting around pretty well and the traffic was moving without too much damage,” said Lisk. “In areas where we did see some mudslides and flooding, local and government authorities were on scene, clearing roads and helping the citizens recover from the storm.”

“We hope to continue to build our partnerships on humanitarian missions, like Continuing Promise,” said LCDR Jerald Jarvi, Coast Guard Physician Assistant Force Manager in Washington, D.C. “Hopefully next year, we can provide a more robust medical team and increase the Coast Guard’s footprint in these humanitarian missions.”

The ship is due to return to its homeport of Norfolk, Va., this Veteran’s Day weekend.

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