The hospital ship Comfort left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, on Friday, heading to Puerto Rico to support relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In addition, the amphibious assault ship Wasp has been released from relief work in Dominica and will head to Puerto Rico as well.
The Comfort’s much anticipated move came around 2 p.m., when the ship headed through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and headed to the open sea.
“We don’t know where we are going yet,” said Capt. Kevin Robinson, Commander of Military Sealift, Atlantic at a Sept. 29 pier side briefing as the ship was preparing to depart. “We’ll get our orders enroute ... the great part of what Comfort brings to the fight is the ability move anywhere they ask us.”
Robinson said that the ship should be on station by Oct. 3 or Oct. 4.
Comfort has been the source of controversy this week as many wondered why the ship hadn’t been tasked and sent to the Caribbean earlier as was the case with other Navy ships.
Comfort left with 522 medical personnel and support staff, and 70 civil service mariners aboard. The “package” includes the full spectrum of medical care to include general practice, family medicine, nephrology and pediatrics.
The ship is a converted San Clemente class supertanker, one of two the Navy maintains through the Military Sealift Command to be ready for contingencies.
With one of the largest trauma units in the word, the ship maintains 5,000 units of blood and has up to a 1,000 bed capacity. The floating hospital is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CAT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry and lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants.
Meanwhile, the Navy is moving the amphibious assault ship Wasp over to Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories after spending the better part of the past couple weeks providing aid to the island of Dominica
According to the U.S. Southern Command, Wasp had been providing assistance to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma but was was re-positioned to avoid the path of Hurricane Maria.
She arrived off the Caribbean nation of Dominica on Sept. 21. Wasp was on her way to Sasebo, Japan, when first Hurricane Irma and then Maria tore through many island nations and U.S. territories. Wasp will eventually resume her transit, though it’s unclear when she’ll depart the Caribbean.