The massive Mercy-Class Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived off the coast of hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico earlier this week, as a part of a government wide response to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria on September 20th. The ship’s presence came amid a flurry of political posturing and accusations between prominent Americans on either side of the political fence, with President Trump touting the government’s response to the storm as unprecedented, and opponents like Hillary Clinton decrying the slow progress of aid to the region.
Regardless of the politics of the day, the USNS Comfort is equipped to do some real good for the struggling population of Puerto Rico. The floating medical treatment facility is staffed with more than 800 personnel, including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners trained specifically to support populations in crisis.
The huge vessel boasts one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States, complete with four functioning X-Ray machines, a CAT Scan unit, a full dental suite, optometry lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants. It is not only a floating hospital, it’s a floating hospital that is likely better equipped than the brick and mortar one in your town.
Although the Comfort, and its sister ship that serves as the class’ namesake, the Mercy, are U.S. Navy ships, they come equipped with no offensive capabilities whatsoever, and exist solely to provide care to those in need on a level unrivaled by any other expeditionary organization. The vessel began its life in 1976 as a San-Clemente class oil tanker named the SS Rose City. It was converted and renamed in a ceremony on December 1st of 1987, when it began its new life in support of humanitarian operations the world over.