By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephane Belcher, Navy Medicine East
/ Published November 08, 2017
The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort replenished its medical supplies, food and other necessities, by connecting with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn while underway off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 6.
Since it departed from Norfolk, Virginia, Sept. 29 to provide humanitarian relief in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the sailors aboard the Comfort have treated 1,476 patients, performed 147 surgeries and admitted 293 patients. Patients continued to be treated on the ship during the short underway period.
“I am proud of the accomplishments and contributions we’ve made so far in our partnership with the lead federal agency, the health and human services and the Puerto Rican administrators of health and their providers,” said Navy Capt. Kevin Buckley, commander of the military treatment facility aboard Comfort. “Our [Disaster Medical Assistance Teams] team partnership has worked really well, embedding them with our staff, helping screen patients and relieve human suffering.”
During the Comfort’s time in Puerto Rico, two babies have been delivered on board, a boy and a girl, the first children born aboard the ship since 2010 in Haiti.
“It has been a really wonderful opportunity for our crew to see and participate in,” said Buckley, discussing the two births. “And the thankfulness of the Puerto Rican people --it’s Americans helping Americans. They’re very appreciative of all the efforts we’ve had, and it shows.”
The Comfort received 193 pallets of food and medical supplies from the Big Horn during the underway replenishment.
“There are medical supplies we need to keep frozen or chilled, so we keep them in freezers or chill boxes and limit exposure to the elements on the transit down from Norfolk,” said Navy Cmdr. Scott Stahl, the Comfort’s supply officer. “It was a total team effort, the civilian mariners and military working together to bring on 165 pallets via [vertical replenishment] and 28 pallets via [connected replenishment]. We work really well with the crew here.”
The Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that has more than 850 personnel embarked for the Puerto Rico mission, including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as more than 70 civil service mariners.
The Defense Department is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates all federal assistance requested by the government of Puerto Rico to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.