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HSC-28 Airlifts Patients to Comfort for Treatment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070624-04
Release Date: 6/24/2007 12:03:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelly E. Barnes, USNS Comfort Public Affairs

USNS COMFORT, At Sea (NNS) -- The mission commander for USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) personally escorted medical patients back to the hospital ship for treatment from Belize City, Belize, as they were airlifted via Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 MH-60S helicopters, June 22.

Capt. Bob Kapcio made two trips to shore with HSC-28 to transport patients.

“I wanted to get out and see what was going on in town,” said Kapcio. “I think it’s important that I go out and see people and integrate with the patients.”

Comfort has a helicopter on board to retrieve patients from sites where helicopters are capable of landing, said Capt. Bruce Boynton, commanding officer, Medical Treatment Facility.

“If we have a very sick patient, the helicopters can take stretchers and a nurse or physician who would ride along to attend to the patient while they’re being airlifted back to the ship,” said Boynton.

The patients are escorted by the ship’s medical personnel to casualty reception, which is accessible directly from the flight deck, Boynton further explained. The ship’s radiology department, CT scan room and the main operating room are then directly accessible from casualty reception.

Operation Smile, one of Comfort’s partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs), repairs clef lips and pallets. These surgeries will be done on board the ship, said Wayne Zinn, chief operating officer for Operation Smile.

Comfort will provide medical treatment to approximately 85,000 patients in a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean while deployed on the four-month humanitarian assistance mission. While deployed, Comfort will be under operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and tactical control of Destroyer Squadron 24. The mission is a collaborative effort between the United States, partner nations and NGOs.

The deployment team intends to send a strong message of U.S. compassion and commitment to Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Today was my first time doing any type of medical mission on a helicopter,” said Kapcio. “You really realize why you’re here when you see the faces and the reactions (the patients) have knowing they’re going to get help.”

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