NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived here Sept. 28 at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services and Louisiana government state officials.
The ship, one of the largest trauma facilities in the nation, is preparing to act as an emergency trauma center for New Orleans as its citizens begin to repopulate the Crescent City.
During this mission, Comfort will be under the operational control of Joint Task Force Rita.
"We are looking forward to helping the city of New Orleans get back on its feet and are ready to assist the people in any way we can," said Capt. Thomas Allingham, commanding officer of the ship's Medical Treatment Facility.
Comfort has been operating in the Gulf Coast region for nearly three weeks. The ship was activated in support of FEMA's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts Aug. 31 and sailed from its Baltimore home port Sept. 2. After stopping in Mayport, Fla., to load additional supplies and personnel, Comfort and its crew of more than 600 Sailors, civil service mariners and Project HOPE volunteers, arrived in Pascagoula, Miss., Sept. 9.
During ten days in Pascagoula, Comfort's medical staff treated 1,452 patients aboard the ship and 376 patients ashore at the Comfort Clinic, a temporary medical facility set up at the city's Singing River Mall.
The ship left Pascagoula Sept. 20 in order to evade Hurricane Rita.
Comfort is one of two hospital ships in the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command and is normally kept pierside in reduced operating status with a cadre crew of 58 Sailors and 18 civil service mariners aboard.
Navy medical personnel staff the ship's hospital while the mariners employed by Military Sealift Command operate and maintain the ship's navigation and engineering systems. When called into action, the ship can be ready to sail in five days. For this mission, the ship was ready to sail in three days.
Comfort was last called to duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In January 2003, the ship sailed to the Persian Gulf to provide medical care to U.S. military personnel, Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war.
For the latest Navy news on hurricane relief efforts, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/hurricane/.