Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hospital Ship USNS Comfort Races to Haiti

The American Forces Press Service reports (Jan. 16, 2010) that the USNS Comfort cast off lines Saturday morning in Baltimore to begin the race to aid the people of Haiti.

The hospital ship is loaded with medical expertise and supplies. Sailors from medical facilities all over the United States have arrived and are planning how to best deliver medical care.

“At this juncture the leadership of USNS Comfort is making every effort to expedite our arrival in Haiti, said Navy Lt. Bashon Mann, the ship’s public affairs officer. “The expected arrival date is Thursday (Jan. 21,) but we are moving as fast as we safely can to hasten the arrival in Haiti to begin delivering patient care.”

Getting the Comfort ready was a rush job, to say the least. The Navy notified most of the personnel that they would deploy on Jan. 13. Buses brought the medical staff to the ship yesterday, and sailors searched for their berths, muster stations and workspaces until late in the night.

Hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) receives supplies
from the supply ship USNS Peary (T-AK 5) July 16, 2009.
Teams on board Comfort have wrapped up a seven nation,
four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission
to Latin America and the Caribbean
called Continuing Promise 2009.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Stratton)

The ship has intensive care wards of 80 beds, limited care wards of 500 beds, total patient capacity of 1000 beds and 12 operating rooms. It also has four distilling plants to make drinking water from sea water (300,000 gallons per day) and a flight deck that can handle the world's largest military helicopters.

The USNS Comfort was built as an oil tanker in 1976.  She became part of the Navy in 1987.  She provides emergency, on-site care for U.S. combatant forces deployed in war or other operations.  When not on active deployment the hospital ship is kept in reduced operations in the Baltimore harbor. She normally is ready to ship out of Baltimore with 5 days' notice.  It shaved off a day from that normal preparation this time to get to Haiti.

The USNS Comfort was actually in Haiti last year as part of Continuing Promise 2009.  The four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Latin America and the Caribbean started in April 2009 with stops in Antigua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Panama.  Each visit lasted about 10-12 days. The ship blogged about that mission at  It’ll be hard work and long days ahead for this crew. Safe voyage!

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