BALTIMORE (NNS) -- Baltimore-based Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) was welcomed as an honorary member in the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) at the organization's annual meeting in Baltimore June 4.
The honorary membership recognizes Comfort's role in international relief efforts following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. Comfort spent seven weeks anchored off the coast of Port-au-Prince, where shipboard medical personnel treated nearly 900 earthquake victims.
"It's an honor for the men and women who served on Comfort during the Haiti mission to be recognized as part of the Maryland Hospital Association," said Capt. James Ware, the commanding officer of Comfort's Medical Treatment Facility. "We are very proud of all of our enduring relationships with the broader medical community, including partners ranging from other U.S. military services and government agencies to non-governmental organizations and even foreign militaries and health ministries."
Ware and David Lieberman, the civilian officer in charge of the ship, accepted the honor on behalf of the more than 1,000 Navy medical personnel and 79 civil service mariners who coordinated with 170 Navy planners and support personnel and an additional 244 civilian medical volunteers from eight non-governmental organizations.
"Maryland's hospitals and the USNS Comfort share more than a home. We also share a mission of providing care and compassion to all who need it," said Carmela Coyle, MHA president and CEO. "For Maryland's hospitals, that means being there to provide care. For the USNS Comfort, it means getting there to provide care."
Lieberman and the rest of Comfort's civil service crew are also happy with the honor.
"Part of what makes Comfort's hospital so exceptional is the fact that we can take it where it's needed," said Lieberman. "Although the mariners don't treat patients, we are so proud of the role that we play in getting this ship to people in need and ensuring that the hospital has electricity and water."
Ware and Lieberman accepted a plaque that will be displayed aboard the ship.
"The people who are Maryland's hospitals are proud to now be associated with the people who man the USNS Comfort in all capacities, and we welcome them now as colleagues," said Coyle.
Comfort was delivered to the Navy Dec. 1, 1987, and arrived in Baltimore July 13, 1988. When not deployed, Comfort is kept pierside where a small crew of civil service mariners and Navy medical personnel maintain the ship and Medical Treatment Facility in a high state of readiness. When activated, Comfort can deploy on a mission in five days.
Comfort is operated, navigated and maintained by a crew of civil service mariners working for the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command while the Medical Treatment Facility is crewed and maintained by Navy medical personnel.
The Maryland Hospital Association is the advocate for Maryland's hospitals, health systems, communities and patients before legislative and regulatory bodies. MHA's 61 member hospitals include teaching hospitals, health systems, specialty hospitals, veterans hospitals and long-term care facilities.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces, conduct specialized missions, and replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea.
For more news from Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/.