The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport dock ship, and USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, are deployed from Norfolk, Virginia to assist in hurricane relief efforts.

In response to the pending threat of Hurricane Matthew, the US Navy deployed the aircraft carrier USS George Washington from its home base in Norfolk, VA to assist in relief efforts if needed. Additionally, the hospital ship USNS Comfort and amphibious transport ship USS Mesa Verde also deployed.

The current projected path of Hurricane Matthew has the storm racing up much of the east coast. The hurricane’s effects have already been felt in Haiti, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas. Hurricane Matthew became the first Category 4 landfall in Haiti in 52 years, and the destruction showed. The current death toll has risen to nearly 300 as of Friday morning.

The aircraft carrier and its complement of ships provides government officials with a ready response team and a very capable humanitarian response/relief platform.

“Between our ability to make fresh water and our ability to transport via our helicopters, as well as our medical staff that we have on board, an aircraft carrier is very vital to a humanitarian assistance, disaster relief mission,” said Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic.

Cpl. Nicholas Beattie prepares to unload a MV-22B Osprey transport aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 365 aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN73). George Washington, homeported in Norfolk, is underway in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Jonathan Price)

All nuclear powered aircraft carriers make their own water through desalinization.  This means a large supply is available with the only limits being capacity. Additionally, facilities onboard such as a small hospital, over 5,000 available beds, and multiple dining areas make an aircraft carrier a well positioned platform to provide relief.

The aircraft carrier is also a great command and control center from where to direct and command relief operations. It is removed from the area of devastation, has the necessary communications equipment, and most importantly the manpower needed to run a full scale logistics campaign. Additionally, the aircraft carrier also has MH-60S Search and Rescue helicopters, MV-22 Ospreys, and C-2 Greyhounds to provide heavy lift and emergency medical transport.

Hecht said the George Washington brought 15,000 bottles aboard for distribution and said the ship can treat about 60 patients in its medical facility. The ship’s hangar bay also could be used to treat hundreds of patients.

The Comfort hospital ship also has a 1,000-bed medical treatment facility with 12 operating rooms. The Mesa Verde is deploying with a Virginia Beach-based construction unit that provides disaster recovery support.