Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
For more information, contact:
Anna Hancock (202) 685-5065
April 1, 2009
USNS Comfort departs Norfolk on humanitarian mission
Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort departed Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., today for a four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Latin America and the Caribbean.
During the deployment, Comfort's 64 civil service mariners - who operate the ship - will navigate it to seven countries where shipboard medical personnel, and veterinarians and Seabees will work with host nation partners to provide medical and dental assistance, and veterinary services. On a similar mission in 2007, Comfort's medical team treated more than 98,000 people.
"I am excited to be part of this mission," said Capt. Thomas Finger, the ship's civil service master. "We are going to provide a lot of people with medical care that they might not otherwise have access to - it's not every day that you get to make a difference in people's lives."
Comfort will visit Antigua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Panama.
The focus of Comfort's deployment is providing humanitarian assistance. However, the work of MSC's 64 civil service mariners will be pivotal to the success of the mission.
In addition to operating and navigating the ship and providing the shipboard hospital with electricity and fresh water, they will also run two 33-foot utility boats to transport patients and mission personnel between ship and shore in countries where the ship's size keeps it from pulling pierside.
"During the 2007 mission, our crew worked tirelessly to transport patients to and from the ship, keep the hospital lights on, and get this ship where it needed to be," said Chief Mate David Lieberman. "What kept us going - at least those of on the boats - were the interactions with patients whose lives were forever changed by what Comfort brought to them."
Comfort's civil service mariners will also join an embarked Naval construction force of Seabees to provide engineering support at each location and complete medical facility repairs and minor construction projects. Together they completed projects at 20 schools and hospitals in 2007.
Military Sealift Command operates approximately 110 non-combatant, merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
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