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Hospital Ship to Depart Norfolk for Medical Mission

By Military Sealift Command

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NORFOLK, Virginia -- The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) deploys from Naval Station Norfolk on Friday, June 14 at 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

During its five-month deployment, Comfort will provide medical assistance in support of regional partners and in response to the regional impacts of the Venezuela political and economic crisis.  While deployed, Comfort will conduct mission stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.

U.S. military medical personnel aboard the Comfort will work alongside a variety of governmental agencies to provide medical assistance to communities based on needs identified by host-nation health ministries, and to relieve pressure on host nation medical systems in countries hosting Venezuelans who have fled the country’s crisis.

“This deployment responds directly to the man-made crisis Maduro’s regime has created,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, which will oversee the deployment. “Comfort medical teams will be working alongside host nation medical professionals who are absorbing thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The Venezuelan people are desperately fleeing their homeland for hope of a better way of life. We are committed to finding ways to support the Venezuelan people and our regional partners who share the goal of seeing a legitimate, democratic government reinstated in Venezuela.”

This marks the hospital ship’s seventh deployment to the region since 2007, second deployment to the Western Hemisphere in the last six months, and reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the people of the Americas. The USNS Comfort operation is part of the Caribbean 2020 Strategy to increase the security, prosperity and well-being of the people of the United States and the Caribbean.

The ship’s crew size will be tailored, depending on the area being assisted, but will number approximately 1,000 U.S. and partner nation military doctors, nurses, and technicians.  A team of civil service mariners, who will oversee the ship’s operation and navigation, will operate Comfort.

As part of the planning for Comfort’s mission, the health ministries in each country will determine how patients are seen.  The majority of patients will be treated at Comfort’s land-based medical sites.  Select patients may be chosen for the hospital ship’s on-board surgical services.

The medical and dental capabilities provided during this deployment will assist communities with a wide range of health services.  These services will include basic medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine, dental screenings and treatment, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, public health training and additional specialties as required.

A U.S. Navy hospital ship has the capacity to provide afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facilities to the U.S. military, and is an optimal platform to provide hospital services in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations worldwide. 

The Comfort mission demonstrates the U.S commitment to the Americas and is part of a continuum of support provided by U.S. Southern Command.  USSOUTHCOM-sponsored civic assistance and humanitarian missions happen in close cooperation with partner nations in the region as well as with U.S. interagency partners. Similar missions include Continuing Promise, New Horizons, Beyond the Horizon, medical readiness training exercises and the Medical Civil Action Program. 

USSOUTHCOM is one of the nation’s six geographically focused unified commands, with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

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Media wishing to cover Comfort’s departure should contact Military Sealift Command Atlantic Public Affairs office at (757) 443-1887, cell (757) 749-2421 or email LaShawn Sykes at both lashawn.sykes@navy.mil and lashawn.sykes.civ@navy.mil on or before close of business on Wednesday, June 12.  

Where: All media will meet at Naval Station Norfolk’s tour and information office outside of Gate 5 on Thursday June 13, at 1:45 p.m. for security sweeps and escort to USNS Comfort.

Naval Station Norfolk Tour and Information Office

9079 Hampton Blvd

Norfolk, VA 23505

Who/When: 2:15 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.: Media can board USNS Comfort to gather b-roll, still photographs and capture short sound bites from key ship stakeholders and crew.

The internal ship media availability will board USNS Comfort as a single group at 2:15 p.m. and escorted through key ship’s spaces. The aboard ship media availability will conclude at 2:50 p.m.

3:00 p.m. Media will have the opportunity to conduct interviews on the pier with Capt. B.J. Diebold, USNS Comfort’s mission commander, Capt. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer, USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility and Capt. David Murrin, Ship’s Master USNS Comfort.

NOTES: Once escorted to USNS Comfort, media can conduct live or taped broadcast from the pier independent of the 3:00 p.m. key leader stand-up.
Quick Facts: 

  • USNS Comfort deployed to Latin America in the fall of 2018 in support of Enduring Promise. During this deployment, USNS Comfort’s medical team treated over 26,000 patients and conducted approximately 600 surgeries to include cataracts, hernias, cleft palates and more. 
  • USNS Comfort deployed to Puerto Rico in the fall of 2017 to provide humanitarian relief in response to Hurricane Maria. Sailors aboard Comfort have treated 1,899 patients, performed 191 surgeries, and provided 76,000 liters of oxygen and ten tons of food and water.
  • USNS Comfort has one of the largest trauma facilities in the world and when activated can transition to full operating status in five days, which includes a crew of civil service mariners, Navy medical personnel. The ship maintains 5,000 units of blood and has up to a 1,000-bed capacity. The hospital is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CAT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry and lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite, and two oxygen-producing plants. 
  • USNS Comfort deployed for multiple operations including Unified Response, Iraqi Freedom, and Noble Eagle. The hospital ship also conducted multiple Continuing Promise theater-security cooperation missions. In addition, Comfort provided relief after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Maria. 
  • USNS Comfort is the second of two Mercy-class hospital ships, a converted San Clemente-class supertanker. The Comfort was delivered to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command on Dec. 1, 1987. 
  • Military Sealift Command operates the ships that sustain our warfighting forces and deliver specialized maritime services in support of national security objectives in peace and war.

Contact: Military Sealift Command Atlantic Public Affairs
757.443.1887 (office) 
757.749.2421 (mobile)
lashawn.sykes@navy.mil


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