The U.S. Naval Ship Comfort is heading to Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria decimated the island on September 20.
The hospital ship is expected to get underway within a few days, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
The USNS Comfort is equivalent in size to a 10-story building and is the length of three football fields, according to the Navy. Launched in 1987, the ship has been a crucial part of several disaster relief efforts and military operations over the years.
Her first mission was a combat one: serving coalition troops off the coast of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Her first humanitarian missions both happened in 1994, keeping her busy helping our Haitian and Cuban immigrants looking to come to America.
Her most famous mission may have been Noble Eagle in the aftermath of 9/11. Comfort was activated and sent to Manhattan to provide medical and mental health services. Comfort headed into combat again for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2005 she was back saving American citizens following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Her latest disaster relief mission was in 2010, in response to the massive Haiti earthquake.
The ship has 12 operating rooms, with specialized trauma centers and post care-unit beds included.
Stationed out of Norfolk, Va., the USNS Comfort operates primarily in the Caribbean and Latin America. Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm. Many residents are still without food and water and electricity has been out across the island for days.
In Puerto Rico, the power utility is slowly restoring power to customers, including the Centro Medico Hospital in San Juan and San Pablo Hospital in Bayamon. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reports that generators on the island are operational; however 80 percent of the transmission system and 100 percent of the distribution system are damaged.
Approximately 44 percent of Puerto Rico’s population is without drinking water. Eleven of 69 hospitals have fuel or power. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving providing electricity for hospitals with generators acquired by the Defense Logistics Agency and shipped by U.S. Transportation Command.
The U.S. military and the U.S. Coast Guard has been responding to Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane.
“A joint Army National Guard and Marine expeditionary unit team is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard to maximize search and rescue efforts, supporting re-establishment of an air/land/sea distribution network, and coordinating with the Roosevelt Roads Airfield airport manager to finalize plans to use the airport as a logistic hub and relieve pressure on Puerto Rico’s San Juan Airport,” Defense Department officials said.
On Sunday, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the U.S. should send the USNS Comfort to help the people of Puerto Rico.