Garamone’s Blog: Comfort Crew Gets Off to Good Start
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
AT SEA ABOARD USNS COMFORT, Jan. 16, 2010 It’s pretty amazing that the USNS Comfort is able to do what it does. This ship, now going to Haiti to provide relief for a ravaged country, has a caretaker crew most of the time.
About 80 sailors and another 60 civilian mariners maintain the ship between deployments. The Comfort deploys for scheduled operations about once every two years. The ship came back from a deployment providing humanitarian aid last year.
But the earthquake in Haiti – one of the poorest countries in the world – meant that the ship had to deploy.
The ship needed a full crew. They needed to get the dining facility running and they needed to turn on the water all over the ship. And they needed to ensure there were berths for the medical detachments that poured in from around the Navy.
The scheduled deployments are planned to the nth degree. There are site visits and exchanges with the U.S. embassies and nongovernmental agencies. This deployment is just “grab it and go.”
And the medical staff and crew are doing it. Most of the medical staff comes from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. But there are force protection sailors and corpsmen from more distant bases. The aviation detachment is from Norfolk, Va.
In many cases, this trip is the first time these sailors have met each other.
There is confusion. The first night, sailors were wandering the passageways – that’s what the Navy calls halls – looking for their bunks. Cargo handlers stacked supplies on the flight deck, knowing it was more important to get underway than it was to have everything perfectly stowed. Just learning everyone’s name took time.
But there has been amazing cooperation among the crew and the medical staff. They understand they have a mission to save lives and everything else is secondary.
That they can work together at all is a testament to their dedication. That they work together so well is a tribute to their military and professional training.
This will be a long deployment, and it will be tough. But it’s been a good beginning.
(Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service is reporting and blogging from USNS Comfort during its humanitarian deployment to Haiti.)