Cruise Season

More than 55 Air Force personnel are part of the US military entourage aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort that left late last month on a four-month deployment to ports of call in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of Continuing Promise 2009, a US Southern Command humanitarian-aid initiative. Among the airmen are 33 medical providers, 17 Air Force band members and eight public affairs representatives. “The Air Force plays a crucial role in Continuing Promise 2009,” said A1C Benjamin Stratton, a public affairs specialist from Minot AFB, N.D. Capt. Christina Moore-Urutia, band commander, said music in important on these deployments because it represents “a universal language that crosses all borders” and “has a way of building bridges” and goodwill. Col. Scott Van Valkenburg, Air Forces Southern’s command surgeon, said CP ’09 offers “a unique opportunity” to provide medical care to local communicates in the region and “practice the logistics” involved in humanitarian missions. Airmen have also participated in the humanitarian missions conducted by the US military’s other hospital ship, USNS Mercy, that operates in the Pacific region. (Includes Norfolk report by A1C Danielle Grannan)