The men and women of Team COMFORT drive a real bargain in their efforts to win the hearts and minds in the Caribbean and LAtin America during Continuing Promise '09.

The men and women of Team COMFORT drive a real bargain for the Navy and nation alike in their efforts to win the hearts and minds of so many people in the Caribbean and Latin America during Continuing Promise '09.

In my previous life, I was a military legislative assistant for for former Rep. John Hostettler (IN-08) from 2000-2007. With Rep. Hostettler being a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I had the opportunity to sit through hundreds of hours of committee hearings, power point briefings, and mark-ups of pending legislation so I know a little bit about defense budgeting.

Fast forward to my time onboard COMFORT this past week. i am here to tell you that the USNS COMFORT is a bargain for both the Navy and the U.S. taxpayer. If only the rest of the U.S. Navy was as creative and resourceful as the men and women of TEAM COMFORT (military, NGO’s, and international partners) in leveraging money and talent for medical diplomacy missions like Continuing Promise ’09.

I had an outstanding conversation with CAPT Jim Ware, DC, USN who is Commanding Officer of the COMFORT’s Medical Treatment Facility my first night onboard. He told that out of the 800 people onboard the ship, 350 were volunteers. Volunteers like Michelle Okamoto of Project Hope who burned through 2 years of vacation leave to volunteer for six weeks in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Antigua & Barbuda. Her story is typical of so many of the angels onboard COMFORT. Talk about in-kind contributions of time and talent that doesn’t cost the Navy a dime!

Then there are in-kind contributions of supplies and equipment that doesn’t cost the Navy a dime either. The list of organizations donating supplies for this important mission is endless and includes but not limited to thousands of pairs of eye glasses donated by the Lion’s Club, pallets and pallets of equipment and supplies donated by Project Handclasp, and Rotary Club International donations for building supplies the Seabees used to remodel a women’s barracks at a local hospital. The above-mentioned in-kind donations are just a drop in the bucket and will be detailed in future posts.

Then there are the contributions of our coalition partners like the Dutch. Again, no cost to the Navy. The Netherlands has provided personnel for the entire mission split into three teams. The first team of 8 medical personnel just left on thursday. The Dutch surgical team performed 23 percent of all the surgeries onboard COMFORT in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Antigua and Barbuda. And that is just the Dutch. There are numerous other coalition partners onboard COMFORT.

As a taxpayer, I was heartened to see my tax dollars being put to good use onboard COMFORT.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Soft Power

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Jim, excellent post. It’s good to hear ‘the rest of the story’ that sometimes gets lost in the obvious facts. It’s fantastic that we have international partners, NGOs, and volunteers involved in these worthwhile missions. It’s not only great for the mission, but the involvement of non-US military partners is great for our Sailors to experience as well. Thanks for documenting this for the rest of us.

  • I’m about “Hawk” as they come; but tempered with a high degree of conviction that making friends is the best way to leverage defense tax dollars. Doesn’t mean not paying attention to the basics; just I’d prefer to have real friends watching my back.

    All those persons treated…maybe they’re just a 5 year old kid…but 15-20 years down the line…they remember. That’s money well spent. Marshal Plan brought us good friends for decades from once-upon enemies. That’s the way to safety.

    We need more Comfort (pun intended!)

    and….What he said (Fouled Anchor)

  • Thank you to all of the volunteers on the USNS COMFORT. Keep up the great work.