Locally, they are trekking through the jungle on foot to help a native Panamanian tribe build a dam that will allow them to gather clean drinking water. Veterinarians and preventive medicine physicians are providing "roving" services around the countries, ensuring that the needs of the animal population are not forgotten.
Although Leitl's job is to help others, she is in turn receiving valuable training and/or great experiences from participating on this mission.
"The interaction with the multi-services, multi-national, and non-governmental organizations has been a great experience," said Leitl, who received a bachelor's degree in nursing in 2006 from California State University, Fresno. "The ability to change the view of how other countries view the United States military has been interesting."
Amongst the backdrop of picture perfect tropical paradises that the average tourist sees in the various countries that the ship visited, Leitl and the crew encountered a totally different type of scenery. They saw scores of people living in a type of poverty not seen even in the worst areas of the United States. Indoor plumbing and electricity were luxuries. In Panama, thatched huts were the standard for the Embera Tribe, one of seven native tribes of Panama.
"The thing that has left a lasting impression on me is seeing the transformation of a patient's physical deformity before surgery and after surgery," said Leitl, who has been in the military for 17 years.
As Leitl and the others journey on to Columbia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador before the end of this year's mission, they will continue to bring "comfort" to those in need.