USNS Comfort Public Affairs Office
MSC PAO 01-58
September 22, 2001
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Bridget Morris
202-685-5055 or 202-494-6524
Aboard USNS Comfort: A Fleet Sailor's view
By JO2 Ellen Maurer
ABOARD USNS COMFORT IN NEW YORK CITY...Third Class Petty Officer Harry Rouse sits back in a galley chair, his weathered hands clutching a white, standard-issue coffee cup. It's 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and he's right where he wants to be - at home, shipboard and deployed.
Rouse is a Navy boatswain mate, a rating often referred to as being the heart of the Navy. Currently, he is among a 300-member crew on board the USNS Comfort moored at Pier 92 in New York City, lending logistical support to World Trade Center disaster relief workers. On any other ship, he'd probably be sitting with several other boatswain mates just like himself, but here, his kind is a minority.
On Comfort, civilian mariners do the job of a boatswain mate, so Rouse is pitching in at the Master at Arms shack, which coordinates Navy security for the ship. His job here is pretty much the same as what he does regularly at his duty station at Naval Hospital Portsmouth, but he says he still prefers being on the ship, even though it's not exactly what he would consider "haze gray and underway."
Comfort, which Rouse refers to as a "white hull," has few similarities with his other gray hull ship assignments, which included USS O'Bannon, a destroyer, and USS Ponce, an amphibious platform docking ship.
"If I was on my destroyer right now, I'd be doing my preventive maintenance and checking my equipment. Maybe I'd be looking at boat data or cleaning up my lines," reminisces Rouse. "I love shipboard life. I love the job. I love the labor."
In fact, love for his job is what keeps Rouse, who has been in the Navy for 10 years, from cross-rating to another field, even though rank advancement for Boatswain Mates is slow moving.
"I'm 30-years-old and pretty stubborn, I guess. It really doesn't matter to me, as long as I can be a part of the fleet," he says.
Rouse adds that his experiences on Comfort over the last two years have even given him another perspective of the Navy.
"I've never seen anything like Comfort. The corpsmen that work on this ship and what they are able to do is really impressive," he says, referring to the ship's ability to treat and berth more than a thousand patients at a time. "All in all, I am really glad I got a chance to see this side of the Navy."
It's a side that's kinder and catered more towards caring. Rouse says being around that has enriched his life, especially over the last couple of weeks.
"This is one of the most important missions I've ever been on," confesses Rouse. "What we are doing for the relief workers, giving them a place to sleep and eat, is really important. We're giving them strength so they can go back out there and do what they have to do."
And on that thought, Rouse takes his last gulp of coffee, stands up and says he's heading back to do what he has to do.
On a ship like Comfort, in a situation like this, where the ultimate goal is to take care of the disaster relief workers, he knows that his job, like so many others, is just to do whatever needs to be done.