By Jim Dolbow
The USNS COMFORT will not be the only hospital ship off the coast of Port-au-Prince. Colombia and Mexico are sending their hospital ships.
According to SOUTHCOM, the Mexican Navy Navy is sending the Huasteco Hospital Boat.
By Jim Dolbow
From the Naval History & Heritage Command’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:
(AH-3: dp. 10,102; l. 429’10”; b. 50’2″; dr. 26′; s. 18 k.; cpl. 318; cl. Comfort)
The first Comfort (ex-USAT Havana) was built in 1906 by William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Co., Philadelphia, Pa., as Havana; transferred from the War Department 17 July 1917; outfitted at New York Navy Yard by John N. Robins Co., Brooklyn, N.Y.; renamed Comfort 14 March 1918; and commissioned 18 March 1918, Medical Inspector C. M. Oman, USN, commanding.
After serving from 24 July to 5 October 1918 as a floating hospital at New York Comfort joined the Cruiser and Transport Force, Atlantic Fleet to return wounded men from Europe. In three voyages between 21 October 1918 and 13 March 1919 she brought home 1,183 men from France, Britain, and the Azores. She sailed from Charleston 9 June for repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard where she went in ordinary 11 September, and was decommissioned 5 August 1921. She was sold at Mare Island 1 April 1925.
(AH-6: dp. 6,000; l. 417’9″; b. 60′; dr. 27’8″; s. 14 k.; cpl. 233; cl. Comfort)
The second Comfort (AH-6) was launched 18 March 1943 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Ltd., Wilmington, Calif., under a Maritime Commission contract; sponsored by First Lieutenant E. Hatchitt, USAMC; transferred to the Navy the same day; converted to a hospital ship by Bethlehem Steel Co., San Pedro, Calif.; and commissioned 5 May 1944 with Commander H. F. Fultz in command.
Comfort operated throughout World War II with a Navy crew and Army medical personnel. She sailed from San Pedro, 21 June 1944 for Brisbane, Australia, and Hollandia, New Guinea. Operating from Hollandia the hospital ship evacuated wounded from Leyte, Philippine Islands on two voyages in October and November and then brought patients back to San Pedro, Calif., in December. Returning by way of Leyte, Comfort reached Hollandia 6 February 1945. Following a voyage to Subic Bay and Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, for evacuees in March, the hospital ship stood by off Okinawa from 2 to 9 April, receiving wounded for evacuation to Guam. Returning to Okinawa 23 April, 6 days later she was struck by a Japanese suicide plane which killed 28 persons (including six nurses), and wounded 48 others, and caused considerable damage. After temporary repairs at Guam Comfort sailed for Los Angeles, Calif., arriving 28 May.
Comfort arrived in Subic Bay 5 September 1945 and until 11 October served as station hospital ship. Following a voyage to Okinawa she sailed for home by way of Yokohama, Japan, and Guam, reaching San Pedro, Calif., 11 December. She made another voyage to Manila, Yokohama, Inchon, Korea, and Okinawa between 1 January and 4 March 1946 before being decommissioned at San Francisco 19 April 1946. She was transferred to the Army the same day.
Comfort received two battle stars for World War II service.
The legacy continues with the third ship named COMFORT (T-AH-20)
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I think the COMFORT made social media history yesterday by becoming the first hospital ship to ever tweet.
Please follow the USNS Comfort at http://twitter.com/usnscomfort.
That is how much time elapsed from the time the earthquake struck Haiti at 1653 hours on 12 January until the USNS COMFORT departed Baltimore enroute to Haiti on 16 January 2010 @0900.
No small feat.
The COMFORT went from a skeleton crew in a reduced operating status to a full complement embarked a no-notice deployment that could last 6+ plus months. Moreover, from the time the activation order is given the ship had five days to deploy but did it in three days!!
God Speed the men and women of TEAM COMFORT and their inter-agency, international, and NGO partners!
Given the deployment of the Navy Hospital Ship COMFORT to Haiti, I have compiled for your reading pleasure my series of posts last year about my week-long embed onboard COMFORT while it was in Antigua.
I hope this gives new and old readers alike background on this truly magnificent ship.
By Jim Dolbow
As always, I remain eternally grateful that the 84th Congress legislated that the USMC “Be the most ready, when the nation is least ready.” The Haiti earthquake relief operations vindicated that wise legislation once again.
Earlier today, USNI Blog participated in a Bloggers Roundtable with the 22nd’s Public Affairs Officer, Captain Clark Carpenter, USMC. The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit expects to depart for Haiti on 16 January 2010. I asked Captain Carpenter about partnering with the NGOs and bridging the language gap once they arrive in Haiti. Captain Carpenter’s response is as follows:
…We have pulled in a lot of interpreters, Marines who speak the language down there, whether they’re native or whether they happen to speak that language. We’re pulling those in that went out across the Corps to pull in as many bodies as possible. I’m not sure how many we have, but we asked for about 40. So we’re in the process of getting those guys. In fact, you’ll see them checking in on a regular basis here at the unit as we begin to prepare to leave tomorrow.
So we will be able to bridge that language gap. I’m confident about that. And I think the aid, providing aid and providing relief, that is an international language. People will be able to understand what we want them to do or what we can provide for them.
The first part of the question was about working with NGOs. During our pre-deployment workup period, which began September 18th, 2008, we conducted a number of training exercises, a six-month-long workup period. During these training exercises, we actually rehearsed and trained two humanitarian relief operations and working with non- governmental agencies or organizations and USAID, those types of organizations. So we train to work with those guys. We actually have role players in those exercises acting as those that need the aid. We’ll have role players acting as the NGOs. So we do a lot of coordination and training to support these.
The NGOs and those relief organizations are very well-equipped to support relief operations. That’s what they do. So definitely we will want to support them in their efforts. But until we get on the ground and until we can make contact with them, exactly how we’ll do that is yet to be determined.
Full transcript of the informative interview here.
God Speed to the 22nd MEU!
By Jim Dolbow
Question: Guess how this .jpg was saved on the WhiteHouse.gov website? Answer: hero_haiticoastguard.jpg
The men and women of the Coast Guard and their sister services are heroes in my book too!
Two Coast Guard 270-foot cutters sit offshore of Haiti, ready to provide humanitarian aid, 1/13/10
By Jim Dolbow
Open source media is reporting that the Port Au Prince Airport is Jammed. Not surprising. Pre-earthquake, it typically handled 25 flights a day. As of 1500 EDT, that number stood at 55.
In a DOD Bloggers Roundtable this afternoon that USNI Blog participated in, the Air Force guests said the airport only had 2 fuel trucks and two towbars.
Can someone spare a fuel truck or towbar? If so, please let SOUTHCOM know. Thank you!
Don’t make me start a bake sale to get the Haitians some more fuel trucks and towbars.
Highlights from USNS Comfort Captain Aims To Bring Hope To Haiti:
The COMFORT is slated to leave Baltimore, MD by Saturday morning.
Expects to arrive in Haiti by 22 January.
Equipped for 250 beds and 4 operating rooms.
God Speed men and women of COMFORT! I just wish it was faster than 17.5 knots!
Project Hope is recruiting volunteers to serve on this open-ended mission. Click here to register.