USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), the US Navy’s 272-meter hospital ship, got underway from Naval Station Norfolk on June 14 to begin its deployment to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
During its 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.
“We are embarking on a five-month deployment to the US Southern Command area of responsibility to embark on a humanitarian assistance mission,” said Capt. B.J. Diebold, Comfort’s mission commander. “Our mission will consist of multinational personnel from across our partner nations as well as allied personnel, non-governmental organizations, and US Navy personnel.”
While deployed, Comfort’s mission will include stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
US military medical personnel aboard 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 US Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of US 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.”
This marks the hospital ship’s seventh deployment to the region since 2007, and the second deployment to the Western Hemisphere in the last six months.
“We are deploying with 197 credentialed medical professionals that are joint forces, that’s public health, US Navy, and US Army providers aboard, combined with my full staff of over 800 people,” said Capt. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer, USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility.
A team of Military Sealift Command civil service mariners will oversee the ship’s operation and navigation for Comfort’s deployment.
“We expect to help thousands of people while we are on this mission and impact lives,” Buckley said. “We will be providing surgeries for patients onboard USNS Comfort. These will be low-risk surgeries with high economic impact.”
A US Navy hospital ship has the capacity to provide afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facilities to the US military, and is an optimal platform to provide hospital services in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations worldwide.