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Homeland Security

Comfort Crew Provides Community Relief Effort

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050915-04
Release Date: 9/15/2005 7:30:00 AM


By Journalist Seaman Heather Weaver, USNS Comfort Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Sailors have teamed up with Salvation Army volunteers to prepare care packages for residents of the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Crew members sifted through hundreds of bags and boxes filled with donations to ensure each care package was filled with the necessary supplies.

“Our first goal is to meet the immediate needs of the people affected by this hurricane, such as providing food and water,” said Salvation Army Warehouse Supervisor Perry Balcom.

Balcom and many of the other volunteers are part of an organization known as Hope Force International. They are a 24-hour, quick-response team deployed to different aid organizations around the country in times of crisis.

Volunteer Mary Minton said having Comfort to assist in relief efforts is a huge blessing for volunteers and victims alike.

“It’s so wonderful to have Comfort in the area because the staff aboard the ships have their hearts in the same place as ours...we all have the same mission, and that’s to help the people who have been affected by this tragedy,” Minton said.

Beyond medical care to local residents and surrounding communities, the hospital ship also serves as a hotel service to volunteer relief workers. Minton, Balcom and several other volunteers stay aboard Comfort during their off hours.

“Not only have we been provided warm meals and a comfortable place to sleep,” Balcom said, “but we have been provided with several volunteers who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

“We’re here to assist in the community any way we can. Since my job aboard the ship isn’t in the medical field, I do whatever else I can to make a difference,” said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Jason Christian, an oxygen nitrogen production engineer aboard the ship. “It’s terrible what happened here...our country needs us in any way possible. That’s exactly what we’re here for – to help.”

“Community relations projects tie into the ship’s mission of trying to do the most good for this community,” said Comfort’s Medical Treatment Facility’s (MTF) Commanding Officer, Capt. Thomas Allingham.

“Comfort’s Civil Mariners and military staff are voluntarily entering the community to clean up and restore neighborhoods, distribute food and clothing and provide care in relief efforts where we are most needed. Helping in any way possible is our main goal.”


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