By Lt. j. g. Jack Dembowski
Continuing Promise 2017 Public Affairs

USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1), a Military Sealift Command-operated expeditionary fast transport vessel, with embarked civilian mariner crew and U.S. military personnel, arrived in Mayport, Fla., Jan. 19, to begin preparations for Continuing Promise 2017 (CP-17).

CP-17 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO)/ U.S. 4th Fleet (FOURTHFLT) conducted deployment focused on civil-military operations including humanitarian-civic assistance activities comprised of medical, dental, and veterinary support, as well as disaster response to partner nations. These efforts are meant to show U.S. commitment to her Central and South American partners.

The embarked command element, led by Commander Destroyer Squadron 40 (CDS 40) and various supporting detachments, will deploy to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility (AOR) from January to April 2017 in support of CP-17. The ship will visit Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia.

Spearhead arrived in Mayport to conduct final preparations and a rehearsal of the "tent city" setup. Tent city is the term given to the living environment that the forces will see on the ground. This includes several tents for housing accommodations, as well as a mobile kitchen trailer for meals. Lt. Cmdr Robert Lennon, CP-17 Medical Officer-in-Charge, said, "The rehearsal is critical to work out any last-minute challenges and prepare as a crew to execute our mission. Our ability to execute CP-17 effectively is dependent on working as a team and practicing our plans to offer high quality medical care to as many host nation citizens as possible."

This is the first time USNS Spearhead will be used to support the Continuing Promise mission. Setting up Tent City and rehearsing the operational tempo for the medical sites on the ground in each nation will allow the team to increase efficiency and provide more training for participants.

CP-17 participants will work alongside local government officials and medical professionals from the host nation to meet the day-to-day needs of communities, and increase collective preparedness for disaster response and contingency operations.

"I was fortunate enough to play a part in the highly successful Continuing Promise 2015," said Capt. Errin Armstrong, CP-17 Mission Commander. "I hope to see the same level of success this year. We will do our best to ensure this mission is completed safely while providing the best healthcare to as many citizens as possible."

Spearhead will depart Mayport early next week to begin Continuing Promise 2017. An estimated 15,000 patients will be treated during CP-17 from January to April.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central, and South American regions.