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Hospital Ship Holds Training for New Crew

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030929-02

Release Date: 9/29/2003 8:29:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class AnTuan Guerry, National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs

BALTIMORE, Md. (NNS) -- Nearly 100 Sailors regularly assigned to the National Naval Medical Center deployed to Navy Hospital Ship USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20) Sept. 15-16 for a regular pierside practice exercise.

The training is necessary to teach the new Comfort crew members shipboard safety, and ship and workplace orientation. The training focused on various topics, including mass casualty and abandon ship drills; lifeboat and litter bearer training; Chemical, Biological and Radiological defense training; repair locker training, and finally, life raft commander training for officers.

According to Capt. Charles Blankenship, commanding officer of the Comfort's Medical Treatment Facility, this year's Comfort Exercise training is different than previous training periods. The training was two days vice five days, and the crew was not required to stay overnight, instead they arrived and departed Comfort daily.

One of the biggest changes in this year's training, according to Blankenship, is that the crew can now "train from experience gained in Operation Iraqi Freedom vice theory."

Blankenship bases his thoughts on the training to Comfort's participation in world events over the past three years; namely, logistical support for the World Trade Center bombing in New York, the humanitarian efforts of the Baltic Operations Exercise and the hospital ship's role during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Prior to these events, Blankenship says Comfort based its training more on "what could happen." Now, the crew can point to something that actually happened.

"We try to build on our experiences.to take care of people medically. Because of these past experiences, we now know what it takes to provide care in an operational setting. We've had successful operations because of the crew's readiness," Blankenship states.

"What we do in the hospital should prepare us for what we need to treat people on the ship. Comfort's crew has tremendous capability and flexibility on what we can provide."

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