By Buddy Blouin
USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is part of a fleet of hospital ships used by the U.S. Navy to help heal troops in need and assist in humanitarian missions all around the globe. The realities of war are unfortunately brutal, but so, too, can be the realities faced by the less fortunate due to the lack of access to proper healthcare. This is also true for those experiencing a traumatic experience, such as a major natural disaster that has injured those within a now vulnerable community. When it comes to the names of U.S. Navy hospital ships, Comfort is one that lives up to her name. Get to know more about what this wonderful ship and her crew do for Sailors and many others.

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The USNS Comfort Ship Is a Floating Navy Hospital

Just like her sister, the USNS Mercy, USNS Comfort was commissioned in 1986, features 1,000 hospital beds, and uses a mix of military and civilian personnel to deliver aid depending on the situation. Both are also San Clemente-class oil tankers, which were built by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in 1976, reaching a length of 896’. Hospital ships aren’t allowed to carry offensive weapons due to the guidelines of war set by the Geneva Conventions, so the USNS Comfort is unarmed. There are, however, defensive weapons that may be aboard the vessel for her crew to defend against potential threats should they arise. Because of the weaponry limitations imposed by the international community, attacking the USNS Comfort or any hospital ship is deemed a war crime. An important feature of the USNS Comfort is that she is capable of supporting helicopters, thanks to her flight deck. This is a critical component that can literally mean the difference between life and death when air travel can cut time and provide medical assistance to those in need quicker.

Where Is the USNS Comfort Docked?

The USNS Comfort docks at the Naval Station Norfolk, which is found in Virginia. When it’s not there, you may find it all over the world assisting our troops with medical care on the water during military operations in the midst of wartime. The USNS Comfort moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in 2013 in an effort to have her closer to the medical supplies she requires. By doing so, the move has saved the U.S. Navy around $2 million per year. During peacetime, the USNS Comfort can be found all over the world assisting with humanitarian efforts and healthcare to help those in need. Recent examples include the USNS Comfort leaving NYC after assisting patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Enduring Promise in South America, and during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

How To Volunteer on the USNS Comfort

Yes, it’s true; if you are looking to volunteer on the USNS Comfort, there are opportunities to do so. The focus of the ship’s mission always revolves around supplying people in need of medical assistance with the care they deserve. So, it should be no surprise that having a medical background will come in handy and is a requirement to volunteer. Beyond being a licensed medical professional, other skills, including speaking the language of the region that will be receiving aid, are also desired. To be accepted, you’ll also have to undergo a background check. Considering that this is for a position working with the U.S. Navy, you can expect it to be a bit more than a routine check found with other employers. Volunteers will also need a valid passport that is more than seven months away from expiration. Those who desire to participate can go online, fill out the form, and take on their mission should they be selected. The USNS Comfort is the best of America and what is inside all of us: a desire to help those in need even when it is dangerous and inconvenient. The crew aboard her are heroes – diligent and capable of providing world-class medical care to those who otherwise lack the access they deserve.

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