While they are often criticized – by me, among others – for their missions to developing countries, at a time like this a hospital ship is invaluable. Carrying a full-service surgical hospital and staffed with experienced combat surgeons, the USNS Comfort can perform the kind of complex surgery that earthquake victims require. It can take evacuated patients that field hospitals aren’t set up to treat.
I was unexpectedly touched by the preparations crew members are making for the trip to Haiti. They’re hot-bunking the ship crew so they can bring more people, they are being asked to limit their drinking water consumption, and they have disassembled the ship’s common rooms and exercise space to make room for patients.