The Military Can Do Much More Than Hospital Ships

When I was Commander of U.S. Southern Command, in charge of all military operations south of the United States, I was lucky enough to break my Admiral's Flag in USNS COMFORT, the massive U.S. Navy hospital ship. Now COMFORT and her sister ship MERCY are soon to deploy to the east and west coast respectively of the United States to render assistance in the fight against COVID-19.

Both ships are highly capable – 70,000 tons, a thousand hospital beds, and 1,200 medical professionals in addition to the Navy sailors who actually operate the ship. They are flexible and can travel hundreds of miles a day, giving them the ability to shift from port to port. In Latin America, the ships did a wide range of work, often conducting 400,000 patient treatments in a typical voyage. In fighting the current virus, their mission will be to supplement the hospitals ashore, bringing capability to bear so local medical facilities are not overwhelmed. They are a good example of what the military can do in the face of crisis.

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