US Navy medics start subject matter exchanges in Colombia

A team of US Navy medical professionals arrived in Colombia aboard USS Gunston Hall on August 25 to begin subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) with Colombian medical professionals.

The visit and partner capacity building engagements taking place in the town of Riohacha are part of Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2018 – an annual US Navy mission in Central and South America.

SPS brings a Fleet Health Engagement Team (FHET) to conduct SMEEs with Colombian representatives including exchanges with medical and non-medical personnel. Specific topics covered in the SMEEs include preventative medicine, tactical combat casualty care, insect-borne disease prevention, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response procedures.

“The FHET will conduct subject matter expert exchanges with military and civilian organizations to effectively share US Navy medicine’s best practices and lessons learned,” said Lt. David Cruz, FHET officer in charge. “The team will engage in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, tactical combat casualty care, and public health exchanges to effectively develop strong partnerships across the US Southern Command’s area of responsibility.”

This mission stop in Colombia marks the second FHET engagement for SPS 18, and follows a stop in Trinidad and Tobago. FHET members are also scheduled to conduct mission stops in Honduras and El Salvador to work alongside those nations’ military forces, security forces, and civilian health professionals.

Held on an annual basis by US Southern Command and executed by US Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, Southern Partnership Station is a US Navy deployment focused on SMEEs with partner nation militaries and security forces in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The SPS mission is normally supported by the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1), but this engagement will notice teams have arrived in Colombia aboard the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).

Gunston Hall’s visit to Colombia is part of the Southern Seas, and UNITAS missions that are operating simultaneously with Southern Partnership Station. Southern Seas is an annual collaborative deployment in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility where a task group deploys to conduct various exercises and multinational exchanges to enhance interoperability, increase regional stability, and build and maintain regional relationships. Southern Partnership Station, Southern Seas, and UNITAS operate under the leadership of Capt. Brian J. Diebold, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40.

Photo: FHET members pose for a group photo aboard USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44). Photo: US Navy

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