Comfort (T-AH-20) is the third United States Navy ship to bear the
name Comfort, and the second Mercy-class hospital ship to join the
U.S. Navy's fleet. The USNS prefix identifies the Comfort as a
non-commissioned ship owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally
crewed by civilians from the Military Sealift Command (MSC). A
uniformed naval hospital staff and naval support staff is embarked
when Comfort is deployed, said staffs consisting primarily of naval
officers from the Navy's Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Medical
Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Chaplain Corps, and naval enlisted
personnel from the Hospitalman rating and various administrative and
technical support ratings (e.g., Yeoman, Personnel Specialist,
Information Systems Technician, Religious Program Specialist, etc.).
In keeping with her status as a non-combatant vessel, naval
personnel from the "combat" specialties are not assigned as regular
crew or staff. Underway embarks by Navy Unrestricted Line officers
(e.g., warfare qualified combat specialties), enlisted Naval
Aviation, Surface Warfare, Submarine Warfare, Special Operations or
Special Warfare/SEAL personnel, or any Marine Corps officers or
enlisted personnel, are typically limited to official visits,
helicopter or tilt-rotor flight operations or as patients.
In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, USNS Comfort and her crew
do not carry any offensive weapons. Firing upon Comfort would be
considered a war crime as the ship only carries weapons for
Like her sister ship USNS Mercy, Comfort was built as a San Clemente-class
oil tanker in 1976 by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company.
Her original name was SS Rose City and she was launched from San
Her career as an oil tanker ended when she was delivered to the U.S.
Navy on December 1, 1987. As a hospital ship, Comfort's duties
include providing emergency, on-site care for U.S. combatant forces
deployed in war or other operations. Operated by the Military
Sealift Command, Comfort provides rapid, flexible, and mobile
medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground
Task Forces deployed ashore, Army and Air Force units deployed
ashore, and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.
Secondarily, she provides mobile surgical hospital service for use
by appropriate U.S. government agencies in disaster or humanitarian
relief or limited humanitarian care incident to these missions or
peacetime military operations. Comfort is more advanced than a field
hospital but less capable than a traditional hospital on land.
After a quarter-century in Baltimore, Maryland, USNS Comfort changed
her homeport to Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia in March
2013. The move placed the ship closer to supplies, much of which
come from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and to medical crew.
Savings to the U.S. Navy are estimated at $2 million per year.