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Posted By: Bonnie Hudlet on October 1, 2010

Labels: Panama , Humanitarian Aid, Volunteers

En route to Panama via Honduras from Nicaragua. Huh? Go to the storm instead of away from it? Huh?

I found out that one of the reasons the annual Continuing Promise mission takes place this time of year is that the ship, crew and volunteers are expected to be on hurricane readiness and prepared to help if a storm should hit a nearby country.

We got a first-hand taste at what hurricane readiness is all about last week as we were preparing to sail to Panama for the next stop on the Continuing Promise 2010 eight-country mission.

When Tropical Storm Matthew pounded the west coast of Central America and dropped a significant amount of rain on the already drenched nations, the USS Iwo Jima turned around from its southward destination in Panama and set sail to the point of Honduras and Nicaragua to be in position if any of the countries should ask for help.

As we headed north, the seas were obviously a little rougher, but not as bad as we have heard they could get. The song “…a rockin and a rollin…” kept coming to mind. A few took the motion sickness pills, and some used the patch.

We headed north and waited it out for about a day before we got word that help would not be needed and again turned south to continue the health education and humanitarian assistance mission to Panama. We moved “full steam ahead” and are planning on being back on schedule by sending helicopters ahead with equipment and supplies to help get the medical sights ready to open as soon as we arrive.

When we start our work on shore, we will be using LCUs (Landing Craft Utilities) instead of helicopters to get on shore. There is no protection on those, so we will be exposed to whatever the weather conditions might be. Because we can use the LCUs, doctors and nurses will be able to spend longer days on shore.

So what did we do in route to a possible international assist, then to Panama? Anything we could. Some took another look at the ship and went to places they had not been, some read, some slept, doctors and nurses gave classes, and one meal the Project HOPE volunteers and military personnel worked in the kitchen. They had a lot of fun and learned a few new things.

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