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SECDEF Visits Comfort

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071007-04
Release Date: 10/7/2007 11:36:00 AM


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelly E. Barnes, USNS Comfort Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Robert M. Gates toured hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Oct. 6 during the ship’s humanitarian mission to Paramaribo, Suriname and surrounding areas.

Gates was accompanied by Suriname Minister of Defense Ivan Fernald, U.S. Ambassador to Suriname Lisa Bobbie Schreiber Hughes and Surinamese and U.S. governmental and military officials.

Gates said he’s very impressed with the efforts of the Comfort crew.

“This mission has created a lot of good will between all of our countries,” Gates said. “It’s really awesome what you guys do.”

For the tour, Gates visited Comfort’s casualty and receiving area, the operating rooms, the dental department, a patient ward, the intensive care unit where patients recover after surgery and the ship’s bio-medical repair department.

“I really want to thank everyone who’s served on the Comfort – you’ve made a huge impact on every place you’ve gone,” Gates said. “You’ve helped a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. Thank you for your service.”

Capt. Bob Kapcio, Comfort’s mission commander, said having both Gates and Fernald aboard Comfort at the same time was an honor that demonstrates the purpose of Comfort’s mission.

“We are here to build bridges and to make lasting, steadfast friends throughout the Americas,” Kapcio said. “We are honored to work alongside our Surinamese hosts to provide cooperative care here, and we are happy to have the opportunity to show Secretary Gates the work we’re doing.”

During the tour, Gates shook hands and spoke with crew members about the importance of their mission. He said he was excited for the opportunity to tour Comfort and talk with and see first-hand the joint-force team that’s helped change lives in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Comfort is concluding its four-month humanitarian deployment to a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with this final country visit to Suriname.

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