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Photo Information

Navy Cmdr. Gordon G. Wisbach, native of San Diego, Calif., and surgeon with Continuing Promise 2010, operates on a 13-year-old Nicaraguan child during a repair of an umbilical hernia aboard the USS Iwo Jima, Sept. 17, 2010. Marines and Sailors of CP10 worked together to support surgical operations off the coast of Bluefields, Nicaragua. CP10 is a humanitarian civic assistance mission, where USS Iwo Jima personnel is providing medical, dental, veterinary, engineering support and disaster relief efforts to the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Photo by Cpl. Alicia R. Giron

Marine translators bridge gap for doctors, Continuing Promise

27 Sep 2010 | Cpl. Alicia R. Giron 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

Since Marines stepped foot on Haitian soil in July of 2010, they have been used as translators to help the Continuing Promise 2010 team communicate with the locals. Marines have proven a reliable resource to ensure the success of CP10’s humanitarian civic assistance mission and have been dispersed throughout medical, engineering and community relation sites.

For the past two months in five Central and South American countries, Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, and civilians took part in more than 240 surgical operations aboard the USS Iwo Jima with hopes of drastically changing a person’s daily life. The most common surgeries performed are hernia and cataract removal. These surgeries are relatively low risk but offer great reward. Patients are able to return to the life they once knew free of debilitating pain or blindness.

“The majority of patients we have seen on this mission so far are patients who can’t afford to pay for their own surgery,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tara B. Wilson, native of Aspen, Colo., and director of surgical services for the joint medical group in support of CP10. “I think that taking the skills that each of us has learned over the years in our different trades will provide the people with the capability to care for their family.”

Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 flew people of Haiti, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua via CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter to the USS Iwo Jima’s medical department. Patients stayed no more than three days aboard ship where they received a pre-operative assessment, the operation and time to recover. Surgeons spend six to seven days operating on patients from host nations and will continue to operate on patients in Panama, Suriname and Guyana.

Throughout the mission, Marines and sailors of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 have been designated to serve as translators for the medical teams on ship and ashore. While on ship, the translators ensured patients were comfortable before and after surgery. They also provided assistance with food and entertainment.

“We have been blessed with 30 translators on this ship, both sailors and Marines who speak Spanish and volunteered their time aside from their assigned workspaces,” said Wilson. “In their off time, they’re coming down to medical and providing a service that is absolutely necessary and without them, we could not do this mission. They are the bridge between the provider and the patient.”

The translators would brief the patients before entering the operating room and answered any questions or concerns they had about the procedure. Sanitized and dressed in scrubs, Marines and sailors were prepared to enter the operating room with the patient.

“My job was to help keep the patients calm and walk them through what was going to happen during their procedure,” said Lance Cpl. Nubia Z. Leon-Lozano, native of Carson City, Nev., and field radio operator with Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Command Element of the Special-Purpose MAGTF. “I felt it was important for them to get comfortable around me prior to going into surgery with them because if I were in their shoes, I would want someone I know to be by my side.”

After working her normal shipboard duties, Leon-Lozano would help care for patients. She played board games, watched movies and brought patients snacks to eat. She said she volunteered to take part in the job because she wanted to get to know the people of the different countries and put her language skills to use.

“Everybody in the Continuing Promise team plays a role in this mission,” said Wilson. “We’re providing low-risk operations, and when it’s all set and done, we will have touched thousands and thousands of lives and left a positive effect. It is about winning hearts and minds and CP10 is a great way to do that.”

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing