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Comfort transits to Aguadilla region for humanitarian relief

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephane Belcher

Navy Medicine East

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departed the Arecibo-Manati region of Puerto Rico, Oct. 7, after providing medical treatment for four critically ill patients.

Comfort coordinated a medical evacuation following a generator failure at Hospital Menonita in Caguas, Puerto Rico, with detachments of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, the “Sea Knights,” embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and Comfort.

“As we look to fold into the maritime forces that are out here supporting the [Department of Defense] effort in support of the lead federal agencies, what we see is our ability to fold in, respond and support those,” said Capt. Kevin Robinson, Comfort’s mission commander. “The Puerto Rican cellular networks, electrical network–all of those areas are still challenges–and yet two different helicopters from two different ships both went to a hospital that was synchronized and waiting to hand those patients off. That’s a testament to the power of the federal government and the U.S. military.”

Comfort is currently underway and expected to arrive and provide medical services in the Aguadilla region. With additional visits being planned for Comfort around the island, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Puerto Rico Department of Health representatives are prioritizing patients at each stop prior to Comfort’s arrival.

Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 800 personnel embarked for the Puerto Rico mission including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.

The DoD is supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.

The DoD also continues delivering supplies on the ground as additional distribution centers are established across Puerto Rico. As of Oct. 6, over 7.3 million meals, 5.8 million liters of water and 273 generators were delivered to Puerto Rico in support of FEMA and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. There are more than 6,600 active duty service members and 56 helicopters operating in and around Puerto Rico. Comfort also has two helicopters onboard to support medical evacuations in hard-to-reach areas.

Comfort’s primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable, and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare. Comfort’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.

For more information, visit Comfort’s website at www.navy.mil/local/tah20

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