Major from ESC experiences new roles while deployed on Navy ship

  • Published
  • By Patty Welsh
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
A member of the Cyber/Netcentric Directorate is getting a chance to earn his sea legs during his current deployment.

Maj. George B. Nuño has been deployed since early April on the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort, serving two main positions. He commands all non-medical Air Force personnel who are aboard the ship and also serves as the Foreign Area Officer (FAO).

Under his command is a communications shop, a public affairs shop and a linguist department, encompassing approximately 30 personnel in various military operational specialties. In the major's role as the FAO, he coordinates with host nation points of contact about country requirements.

The mission of this deployment, Continuing Promise 2011, is to train U.S. personnel on civil-military operations while providing humanitarian assistance and subject matter expert exchanges with nine Caribbean, Central and South American countries.

"Every single country we have visited has been extremely receptive," said Major Nuño. "From senior leader engagements to the host nation's patients being seen at medical sites ashore or on the ship, these interactions have been the highlight of this mission."

The shipboard personnel also respond to urgent needs as they occur.

During a stop in Columbia, the government there requested emergency medical assistance after workers augmenting a coca eradication program triggered an improvised explosive device booby trap.

"This incident involved severe injuries and all four personnel involved were flown to the USNS Comfort where the medical teams on hand responded as required to save their lives," said the major.

Also, in July, there was a significant problem with email communications and telephone services. Most major forms of communications were not working on the ship.

"The Air Force communications personnel on board were instrumental in getting us reconnected to the outside world," Major Nuño said.

Each branch of the military is represented on the mission, including the U.S. Coast Guard. Additionally, military members representing 14 partner nations are also on board. Doctors, nurses, dentists, water purification and chlorination experts and veterinarians from civilian organizations are also participating in Continuing Promise 2011.

The military and civilian personnel will interact, either through humanitarian services or subject matter exchanges, with nearly half a million host nation personnel throughout the course of the almost half a-year deployment.

Because of the nature of the personnel supporting the mission, Major Nuño hopes future missions such as this would be classified as joint operations.

"The lines of where Air Force personnel fall with regard to organizational charts is more grey than black and white," he said. "The Air Force, as well as other sister services, need to be integrated into the preplanning stages of these types of missions as early as possible so we can assist with making these missions a true overall success."

In fact, in order to help with future deployments, Major Nuño and the Air Force commander in charge of medical personnel, Col. (Dr.) Edwin K. Burkett, have been drafting a standards of performance document to help lessen the learning curve that tends to be encountered on Continuing Promise missions.

However, members from all the different services and organizations pitch in for community relations projects.

"We have assisted in many 'Project Handclasp' events where we focused on delivering medical supplies to local clinics and hospitals and school supplies to local schools and schoolchildren," said Major Nuño.

Project Handclasp is a joint Navy/non-governmental organization effort to provide these types of supplies to various nations that are most in need of them.

"Additionally, while in Columbia, members were able to participate in painting projects at local schools," he said. "This gives the Air Force members a chance to engage with the local population on a very personal level."

Overall, Major Nuño feels the unique experience of serving on a Navy ship as an Air Force member has been good. He said he has gained a wealth of knowledge of how the Navy functions at sea and is more informed on Navy culture and traditions.

"I've now had the opportunity to work with all branches of the U.S. military in a deployed setting and can honestly say I've learned a significant amount from each sister service and have gained more insight on why they function the way they do," said Major Nuño.

The leaders at ESC also appreciate the work the major is doing.

"We are so proud of Major Nuño and his service to our country," said Ronnie Carter, Cyber Division chief. "While we miss his expertise in support of our cyber mission, the positive impact he is having on this deployment is truly inspirational to us all."

The major is pleased with what the personnel participating in Continuing Promise 2011 have been able to accomplish.

"We've been able to make profound impacts, whether by providing medical assistance, through SME exchanges or just interacting with the local population," he said.

The ship is expected to return to the U.S. in September.