I have spent the last 10+ years of my life making sure that USNS MERCY is ready to head to sea for Combat Casualty Care, Humanitarian Assistance, or Disaster Relief.

I am an IT expert, former Active Duty Sailor, Amateur Radio Operator, Rugby and Hockey Player, and Land Rover Devotee.

USNS COMFORT left Norfolk, VA today to be a Level One Trauma Center and specialty referral center for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean at large.

Here is USNS MERCY: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/516700/usns-mercy-mission-and-overview-4k

Here is USNS COMFORT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JNNYaINshQ

Here is the New York Times reporting on board the Comfort: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/americas/1247466712758/saving-lives-on-the-u-s-n-s-comfort.html

UPDATE: Well guys it's been fun but my San Diego Gulls kick off their new hockey season today and I need to go get hyped! LET'S GO GULLS!

Comments: 1014 • Responses: 78  • Date: 

Wissahickon925 karma

What happens aboard ship during a storm or heavy seas. Can medical procedures still be conducted?

Navydevildoc1609 karma

Another great question!

So when heavy seas hit (and keep in mind, our version of heavy seas may be much worse that you are thinking of) everyone gets inside the skin of the ship and we literally "batten down the hatches".

But, to your question about medical procedures... we would much rather conduct surgery in calm seas. But if we must, the ship is designed so that the 12 operating rooms are aligned along the rotational axis of the ship, to produce the minimum amount of movement.

Elsewhere on board you would find large D-Rings, anchor points, and other means to "secure for sea" with cargo straps and similar gear.

somedude456832 karma

But, to your question about medical procedures... we would much rather conduct surgery in calm seas. But if we must, the ship is designed so that the 12 operating rooms are aligned along the rotational axis of the ship, to produce the minimum amount of movement.

Wow, that's pretty damn awesome.

Navydevildoc673 karma

Engineering at work :-)

Slayeraustin353 karma

Has there been any attempts made towards making the rooms into gyroscopes, basically so the room always tries to stay level while the ship around it moves?

Navydevildoc658 karma

That would take an insane amount of work for little gain. While it's a great concept, we really don't move around that much to make it worthwhile.

Mishamax144 karma

I was deployed to the Mercy during the first Gulf War. Being a Dental Hygienist, I cleaned teeth in the dental department. It’s interesting when you’re on a ship and your chair has wheels! I would go rolling away at high seas often.

I also worked in the OR. Saw several different types of surgery from third molar extraction to laminectomy. Movement never really became an issue.

Navydevildoc - there was a wooden plaque in the dental department with the Desert Storm crew on it. Is it still there? My misspelled name on it would read DT3 Michele Morrison. Thanks!

I LOVED being on the Mercy. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks for caring for her, Navydevildoc. She will always live in my heart.

Navydevildoc131 karma

Yup... we still have all the plaques. Most have been consolidated into one place on the ship.

Shoot me a message next week to remind me and I will go take a picture for you!

1337_Mrs_Roberts35 karma

Which rotational axis? Yaw is probably not an issue for surgery, but heavy seas causes both pitching and rolling as I understand it?

I'm squarely a land dweller so maybe there's something that's obvious to sea goers here.

dangerousnd200417 karma

Doing surgery with any movement would be challenging to say the least. I haven't done any at sea but I've done lots of surgery. I don't like the idea of someone or something moving me about at all while I operate. Also I get terribly sea sick. I think me barfing in the patient would be poor form. Thoughts?

Navydevildoc27 karma

Hahaha, yeah barfing on the sterile field would tend to make for a poor outcome.

at1145542 karma

Being a hospital ship, you're obviously not playing an offensive role in a war zone. However, is there any situation besides pure self defense that you are allowed to intervene in force? In short, what is your ROE? Also, would you only provide help for friendly forces, or have there been instances of injuried enemies being treated aboard?

Navydevildoc1216 karma

The Second Geneva Convention is extremely clear about the employment of hospital ships.

We will provide aid and comfort to all forces. This must be absolutely clear. In fact, during desert storm both MERCY and COMFORT treated prisoners of war. We do not prioritize patients based on nationality, only on true medical need.

In addition, hospital ships may only act in self defense. Full stop. The moment any kind of offensive action is taken from a hospital ship, she immediately loses all Geneva Conventions protection. This is something we take very seriously.

As far as discrete ROE, I won't go in to that. Safe to say, we will defend ourselves, but never, ever, ever, EVER, go on the offensive.

Greydusk1324302 karma

Do the hospital ships get a military escort for protection when deployed into areas where threats are likely? What's the standard crew compliment and are they all military or are civilians employed on board as well?

Navydevildoc710 karma

I am going to politely decline to answer force protection questions.

As far as crew compliment... man that's a tough question! It all depends on what the mission is. For example, you wouldn't bring along an entire pediatrics service for a combat mission... but you would need extra trauma docs and orthopedic surgeons.

The maximum crew on board is just over 1,300... and YES there are most certainly Civilians on board as well. Civilian Mariners (also known as Merchant Marines) control the ship itself... handling navigation, bridge watches, running the engine room, etc. There are also civilians that work inside the hospital itself, in IT and logistics.

disgruntledplatypus376 karma

As a sailor myself (albeit a VERY different kind) my question is more about the technical aspects than the logistical or emotional. What provides the ship's electrical power? I'm guessing a diesel generator of some kind? Hypothetically, were the diesel to fail or run out of fuel, how long could you continue to perform the ship's mission? Also, is there any surplus power? I can imagine being able to patch the ship into a damaged power grid to bring existing shore facilities back online being a huge boon in disaster relief.

Navydevildoc589 karma

Oh brother, man would you enjoy a tour.

The MERCY class ships used to be supertankers. The hospital on board is powered by an array of redundant diesel generators that are powered by what are essentially locomotive engines. Critical medical loads are also protected by the largest UPS I have ever seen.

Unfortunately the ship's power plant, while large, is not designed to produce power for shore consumption.

disgruntledplatypus273 karma

That makes sense. It does seem like something that could help. One time Canadian Pacific intentionally derailed a locomotive, drove it down the street under its own power, and used it to power the town hall and hospital in a town in Quebec during an ice storm. One time we needed a 210V connection to run a mobile lumber mill, so we tied up my ship- a 91 year old pilot schooner- at the dock nearby and ran a cable from the engine room to use our generator.

Besides the obvious added concerns (including the fact that they came with a viable propulsion system), it'd almost make sense to power the MERCY class with a naval nuclear reactor. I read somewhere that the Russians actually have a class of barge that serve as mobile nuclear power stations.

Are there any of the class of supertanker they used still in service unmodified?

Navydevildoc295 karma

When it comes to nuclear powered ships... the Navy some time ago decided it cost more money and manpower to maintain a large nuclear fleet. Only our submarines and aircraft carriers are nuclear powered.

Fun fact: Only the nuclear powered Nimitz and Ford class supercarriers are larger than the Mercy class ships in the US Navy fleet.

As for tankers, they were the San Clemente class of tankers, built by NASSCO here in San Diego, and I really don't know if any are still around. Mercy was the SS WORTH, and Comfort was the SS ROSE CITY before being converted.

disgruntledplatypus92 karma

All I could find is that four were built. I'm assuming they were all Jones Act ships, otherwise they'd probably have been built overseas.

From these photos, it looks like she has a new navigational bridge up forward, while still maintaining much of the original superstructure aft. Is that correct?

I think the last question I have, if there weren't any deep enough berths, how would you transfer people to and from shore? I'm guessing you don't carry a fleet of landing craft, although the lifeboats I see in the picture could likely do pretty well.

Thanks for all your answers! I've always admired these ships, sometimes in person, but never really took the time to get to know them.

Navydevildoc182 karma

Man, you really know what to ask!

Yeah, the bridge is now forward, but it used to be back aft. When NASSCO converted the ships they literally chopped off the bridge and moved it forward on to the new superstructure. The bridge is an amalgamate of 1970s tanker and 2010s modern shipping. Where the bridge used to be is now a weather deck that holds the most important piece of equipment, our Armed Forces Network Direct to Sailor dish, which gives us 3 channels: News, Sports, and "AFN Prime" which is a rotation of popular TV shows. The News channel switches each hour between a large selection of sources, you can be watching the PBS news hour that's followed by Cavuto, followed by the CBS Evening news. The AFN crew at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County does a good job of getting us what we want each day.

As far as transferring patients... We have two major options. We can either fly them via helicopter to the flight deck, or we can bring them alongside in our tender boats. The tenders are the same thing used by cruise lines to move passengers to shore excursions, except ours are equipped with wheelchair ramps and the ability to hold NATO standard patient litters. Our claim to fame is that last year we were the first US flagged boats to sail up the Han river in Da Nang in Vietnam since the end of the war. We were there working with the Vietnamese to learn how to work together in a natural disaster.

kylepezz66 karma

AFN has the best cringe commercials

Navydevildoc110 karma

Somehow if it were legal I would just download them all and start a subreddit called AFNCringe.

TG-Sucks14 karma

Ok so now I have to ask, what the hell are these commercials? Is it like normal TV ads, or is it military related? Like stuff that happens inside the US military, recruitment etc. How bad can it possibly be, haha. Great AMA btw, much more interesting than I expected!

Navydevildoc39 karma

Oh they are so cheesy.

See, the US Government can't show ads because then it's showing a preference for a certain company, or something along those lines.

So, instead the DoD self produces "commercials" to play.

Here is a youtube playlist of quite possibly the most cringeworthy videos you will ever see....


exes4eyes40 karma

That's fucking awesome.

I'm a soldier at JBLM and am with a battalion about to do a deployment to East Asia ("Pathways"); my brigade sends units every year and this next FY mine got the nod. I think it's awesome that we do these exercises. It's winning hearts and minds before the shit really hits the fan and we're trying to ruck uphill in a fuckstorm of infected smegma.

Question: are these ships on call 24/7 or are there "seasons" and/or times when you can predictably conduct joint training exercises with foreign forces without much fear of a disaster where your support would be valuable?


Navydevildoc111 karma

Nope, we are on the hook 24/7 unless we are in a maintenance availability. That's a block of time where the ship can have major work done and everyone knows we can't respond to a crisis.

We were really lucky to get a good crew from JBLM on our mission last year. The way you hooahs number units is beyond Navy comprehension, they were like from the thirteenty medical brigade or some shit. But good dudes, would sail with them again.

Also watching soldiers get seasick is what fuels the dark bitter souls of us sailors.

beipphine21 karma

What about the Ford Class supercarrier such as the USS Gerald R. Ford that was commissioned into the navy in July of 2017?

Navydevildoc61 karma

Ugh, OK... yeah so OK I forgot about the Ford class. So we are now third largest.

tony468023 karma

Was gonna say this but looks like he edited without marking... tisk tisk, though this is prob my fav AMA ever

Navydevildoc40 karma

Yeah, sorry... I completely forgot about the Ford.

butterfliesarepretty370 karma

Thanks for the AMA!

When I was in college pursuing a nursing degree, I spoke with a Navy recruiter because I was extremely interested in working on the Mercy ships. At the time, I was told that it was the Red Cross that staffed it and it was a huge time and financial investment if I were to volunteer my time.

He also told me they weren't recruiting women for nursing and only wanted them for non traditional jobs.

I guess my question is, is there any truth to either of those things?

Navydevildoc572 karma

I'm not a recruiter, but none of that is true.

butterfliesarepretty185 karma

Lol, thanks.

How hard is it to get assigned to the Mercy ships?

Navydevildoc330 karma

Meh, depends on what you do in the Navy. That's not a very easy question to answer.

If you wanted to be a nurse as an example, you would normally be assigned to a Naval Hospital or Naval Medical Center for your day job. It would only be when the ship is activated that you report on board.

712811730 karma

Hey Doc - what made you decide to go from Green to Blue? When I played on the love boat it was fun for a bit but as a Corpsman I felt like I was more limited in my scope than in a BAS. Thanks for bringing such great attention to this line of work!

Navydevildoc44 karma

Hey brother, I hung on to the green side pretty much my entire time in uniform. On the Mercy I am a civilian.

sock2014349 karma

What is the ratio of time between being actively deployed helping somewhere, and just being in port?
Have there been times when the ship was needed in two or more places at once?
What does the crew do when not deployed?

Navydevildoc649 karma

Great questions!

Typically, the hospital ships do a 6 month out, 18 month back rotation. The year that one ship is out is when the other ship is back at home to respond to a disaster. However, that time at home is used for training, refit, repair, and upgrades in the various shipyards along the two coasts.

In the modern era (i.e. Post Vietnam) there has not been a scenario where more than one crisis has needed the help of a Mercy Class ship. Operation Desert Storm saw both ships deploy to the Persian Gulf due to the expected number of casualties.

Fun Fact: If you look at the front of each ship you will see that the red cross is centered for Comfort, and offset to the port side for Mercy. This was done after the helicopter pilots had a hard time telling the two ships apart!

When the ships are not deployed, a hard working crew of about 60 active duty Sailors and 40 civilian Merchant Mariners keep the ship ready for sea, rotating consumable stock, calibrating medical equipment, patching systems for cybersecurity, etc. The rest of the crew (up to 1,300) are part of the staff of the Naval Medical Center or Naval Hospitals nearest the ship, seeing patients daily.

hatheaded220 karma

If you look at the front of each ship you will see that the red cross is centered for Comfort, and offset to the port side for Mercy. This was done after the helicopter pilots had a hard time telling the two ships apart!

Ok, now I have to know if any pilots ever landed on the wrong ship by mistake, and what kind of ribbing did they endure? (Sort of like this Navy pilot: https://tacairnet.com/2014/01/09/wrong-ship-sherlock/)

Navydevildoc281 karma

Good question... I have to assume they were waved off before the actual landing.

But knowing Aviators there was some serious shit talking later.

Mikofthewat65 karma

So I never landed on the Mercy/Comfort, but we did have an incident in my squadron where another boat had the same TACAN. It was at night and the pilot got inside a quarter mile before realizing he was behind a cruiser.

Navydevildoc76 karma


Yeah, TACAN is still at its core a 60s era technology.

We tend to also give GPS coords over the radio so the aviators can make sure they are going to the right place.

silverjenn241 karma

If the ship is generally always ready, why did it take 10 days to deploy after Hurricane Maria?

Navydevildoc840 karma

The Mercy and the Comfort are always ready to respond within 5 days of "The Flag Going Up". It could be for combat operations, disaster response, whatever.

Comfort literally deployed 4 days after being officially tasked.

I am not going to speculate on why it took that long for her to be sent. That would be an excellent question for your congressional delegation. The Navy does not act until directed by your elected civilian leadership.

silverjenn239 karma

Thanks for your great answer, and for your service. I had no idea that Congress controlled the deployment of an individual ship. That seems like a quite inefficient setup. 😕

Navydevildoc367 karma

Generally Congress does not control the deployment of a ship.

But this is unique.

FEMA needs to request a certain capability for homeland defense and disaster recovery. That request would most likely go to the Commander, Northern Command (called NORTHCOM) who is in charge of all military operations over North America. That request would then be passed down to NAVNORTH, or Commander of Navy Forces, North America. Only then does actual ship deployment orders get cut via fleet commanders.

Somewhere along there the chain was broken. I don't know where.

Turbo331Foxbody55 karma

Except the Navy has been on scene since two to three days after the storm passed through...

Navydevildoc73 karma

Yup, they certainly have.

Turbo331Foxbody60 karma

Sorry. Didn't mean to come off like an ass if I did. I'm on one of the ships. We've been out quite a while now in support of HA/DR operations. Hoping we can move things along quickly and get people back on their feet.

Navydevildoc80 karma

No worries brother... think of Comfort coming in to tag you guys out for a much needed break.

cyancynic196 karma

Can your ship transit the Panama Canal or will you have to go long way round if required in the Atlantic?

Navydevildoc382 karma

Yes we can! The Mercy class ships are called "Panamax" ships in that they are the maximum width allowed in the old locks.

sharkbombinc159 karma

Did you run this AMA through public affairs officers?

Navydevildoc497 karma

Nope. Sue me.

aspectmin150 karma

Thanks for all you do.

Not sure if you would know the answer, but two questions:

1) How do most of your patients, in disaster scenarios, arrive?

2) There are a few of us (at least) in the Pacific NW who are EMTs and Firefighters with many years of experience. Any recommendations on how we might get involved to help out?

Navydevildoc256 karma

How patients arrive is really dependent on where the ship is, how far out from shore, and who the patient is....

If they are a critical trauma patient, they are going to come in to the flight deck on a helicopter just like in the normal civilian world. If they are less acute we can bring them to the ship via one of our large tender boats.

In the future if you want to be involved in a Hospital Ship deployment, I would refer you to Project Hope, a large NGO that has history with the Mercy class ships. Otherwise, I am not really sure.

whitewallsuprise136 karma

What did you eat during your last proper meal ?

I just made mashed potatoes to eat with left over steak and meatloaf.

Do you know Morse code? when was the last time you had to use it ?

What is your favourite meal that the mess hall makes regularly ?

Navydevildoc266 karma

What did you eat during your last proper meal ?

Udon Noodles at Stone Brewing Liberty Station. They changed the menu and got rid of my favorite thing, which was the Yakisoba. I usually get it with tofu instead of chicken because of the way they sear the tofu cubes. But the new Udon dish just isn't the same.

I just made mashed potatoes to eat with left over steak and meatloaf.

Hell yeah. Mashed potatoes cooked with some garlic, add some pepper jack, you gotta hell of a foundation for that meatloaf.

Do you know Morse code? when was the last time you had to use it ?

Yes, I do. Last week was the last time i used it.

What is your favourite meal that the mess hall makes regularly ?

Well, the Navy doesn't really have Mess Halls... we call them the Mess Decks. But my favorite day is Grilled Cheese and Chili day.

Also, I notice you use that extra vowel kind of English. Here is a bonus video of one of our Aussie mates asking how we make the ship go:


cp5184131 karma

How out of date were the electronics and particularly the computers typically?

What do you think in general about the disaster responses to the recent hurricanes?

How is berthing and food and life in general on ships like that?

Navydevildoc301 karma

YAY my area of expertise.

Computers are pretty much state of the art. I can get extremely geeky on you, but it's all modern virtualized infrastructure on fiber channel SANs, blade servers, redundant stretched clusters, etc. Big VMware Horizon deployment for most clinical apps.

Medical equipment is also state of the art. Nothing seems old.

Berthing and Food is not great. I am lucky enough to be in a 6 man stateroom... which sounds bad until you hear that most of the sailors live in 111 man berthing areas. The main galley is the largest in the Navy and as you can imagine is doing the best they can to feed 1,300 people 3 times a day.

SweetMeika104 karma

Has anyone ever given birth in a berthing area?

Navydevildoc160 karma

Ha, no they haven't... but Comfort has delivered babies on board before in the OB service.

lightchipster37 karma

What section of the Navy do you apply for to work in IT? Would you serve as a frontline soldier first?

Navydevildoc102 karma

Nope, the job is literally called IT. No front line soldier work required. The Navy doesn't even really do that.

lightchipster38 karma

Ah haha. A quick follow-up question, your answers have been very interesting. I work in IT as a civilian, does the Navy provide help for your certifications such as training etc? Like CCNA or MCSE certifications

Navydevildoc84 karma

Meh, in theory they do. In reality, it's complicated.

vunderfulme110 karma

Do u or your crew ever get claustrophobic? Thank you for your service.

Navydevildoc432 karma

No, not at all.

In fact, one of the first things that Sailors talk about is how wide and open the Mercy and Comfort are. We have to be able to move Hill-Rom or Stryker gurneys around the ship, and the only way to do that is with open passageways, no "knee-knockers", etc.

A favorite passtime of hospital ship sailors is to go above deck at night and watch the Milky Way. When there is not another light for 1,000 miles, the star gazing is life altering.

Wissahickon95 karma

What's your favorite port of call you've been to?

Navydevildoc247 karma

Dili, Timor Leste. Hands down.

Not because it's that great, but because I can imagine what it can become.

Timor Leste is (or maybe was?) the world's newest democracy.

They fought a war of independence against the Indonesians, and are doing the best they can to get on their feet.

Sitting at the bar of the Castaway, drinking a beer a few meters from the beach really makes me think it could be a major eco tourism destination.

Sgt_45Bravo76 karma

Hey, someone else that's been there. From what you've said, things must have been pretty mellow then. The fighting was still going on when I was there. I'm glad things have stabilized there. Did you get to see that huge fountain?

Thanks for giving all the great answers.

Navydevildoc93 karma

Yeah man, it's nice now. They have a long way to go, but damn they even have a mall now.

jontotheron82 karma

Do you have a Captian Seaman aboard (not a joke)? My cousin was heading down but unsure of what fleet.

Navydevildoc134 karma

Nope, not on Mercy. I am good friends with Commander Seaman though, but he's also here in San Diego.

Yes, that is real, and no it's not a joke.

illneverforget201569 karma

Thank you for your service , I sincerely mean that . What's the scariest situation you have encountered while at seas?

Navydevildoc133 karma

My personal experience was while in Vietnam. Mercy was stationed a bit offshore and we had a breasting barge tied up to the ship so that smaller boats could come alongside with crew and patients.

Unfortunately, the weather got bad, and the sea state went from crappy to downright shitty. The breasting barge started to break loose from the ship, which would have placed the hull in jeopardy of being breached by this out of control barge surging around in the heavy chop.

Thankfully the captain was on top of it and ordered it cut loose before it could cause more damage to the ship itself.

It may not sound like much just reading it, but it was hair raising at the time.

illneverforget201531 karma

That sounds absolutely horrific . That's kind of what I was curious about . Is the sea more threatening then our enemies ? Do you have to worry about pirates ?

Navydevildoc119 karma

The sea is a cruel mistress who will kill you the moment you do not give her the respect she deserves.

Pirates? No. We have bigger guns for self defense.

Morgrid56 karma

Did you hear of when the pirates attacked the Boxer thinking she was a cargo ship?

At the time she was the flagship of the anti piracy task force

Navydevildoc170 karma

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes!

yochana868 karma

I'm a nurse and I'm interested in volunteering on a mercy ship. Any idea who I should contact/what the details of that are?

Navydevildoc105 karma

You want to reach out to Project Hope. They provide the majority of civilian volunteers for hospital ship missions.

I_have_arms64 karma

What sort of amateur radio do you have? HF? VHF? Can you transmit when on a naval vessel (I guess not).

I'm reading up for my amateur radio exam in Ireland.

Navydevildoc103 karma

Oh man, we are loaded for bear when it comes to amateur radio.

Mercy's call sign is K6MRC, listen for us one day! You can even track us on APRS.

We have voice and data capability on HF, VHF, and UHF. We are D-Star capable, are an APRS digipeater, and a Winlink gateway.

I_have_arms30 karma

That's so interesting, I would have thought for operational reasons it would be official comms only, amateur stuff wouldn't be allowed on the boat. Very interesting, I'd love a tour.

I'll keep a listen. I've only an old kenwood TS850 that I was given. Can't tx without the licence, hopefully soon that will change.

Thanks for the interesting AmA

Navydevildoc120 karma

In a disaster relief mission, Amateur radio is official comms :-)

binaryplayground63 karma

Is there an item of comfort that you like keeping on you when you’re deployed?

Navydevildoc121 karma

My sunglasses. It may sound strange, but they are on my head 24/7 at work.

techusn29 karma

Walking out on the deck with all the white walls was terrible on the comfort snow blind on a ship. Sunglasses are required.

Navydevildoc27 karma

Yup... polarized lenses are life.

jamab55 karma

What is your Land Rover history and what percent of your net worth have you sunk into to keeping them running? ;)

Navydevildoc103 karma

Hahaha... the first step is acknowledging you have a problem...

I have a Series IIA, Defender 90, LR3, and Range Rover Evoque.

To be honest, the LR3 is bullet proof, no issues there. Same with the Evoque.

Now the poor Defender, I could start a whole new AMA about how I tried to get to Alaska while changing head gaskets and the entire cooling system in the driveways of family and friends along the west coast. But now I have worked the kinks out from the previous owner and it purrs like a kitten.

Those trucks have taken me to every western state in the US, up in to Canada, the Rubicon Trail, and so many out of the way dirt roads and campsites I have lost track.

10/10 would get addicted again.

endre42052 karma

fellow shipmate with you, stationed at pt. loma. I work with a lot of ITs and i have to ask...do you all play DnD?

Navydevildoc72 karma

DnD happens. I have seen dies with more sides than my brain can really comprehend.

I've never been that in to it personally, but it wouldn't be out of place on a hospital ship!

tony468051 karma

At any time serving upon a USNS ship, or any other classified relief ship, have you dealt with hostile actions while aboard(towards the ship)? If so what actions did the ship take/ is there a SOP for attempted boarding? I know pirates are prob out of their element with such a large ship but gotta believe a plan is in place. With merchant marines standing in as crew I gotta think this scenario is not gong to go to plan a lot of the time. Finally, Does this worry you when in "less regulated" parts of the world?

Navydevildoc171 karma

I am going to politely decline to answer force protection questions.

The most hostile act I can think of is when we entered Puget Sound for Seattle SeaFair a long time ago some Greenpeace guys in a little rubber raft tried to ram us. Why you would do that to a giant hospital I have no idea.

The hospital ships are protected by the Second Geneva Convention, and we take the duties outlined in that treaty pretty seriously.

LaBaLoo51 karma

This is a great AMA!

How long do you anticipate being in PR? Do people come to the ship for aid or does ship personnel deploy to the land?

Also, thank you for your service.

Navydevildoc64 karma

I am over on USNS Mercy, the San Diego based hospital ship. USNS Comfort is headed to Puerto Rico right now.

So I can't really talk to what they are going to be doing or how patients will be taken on board.

SweetMeika44 karma

What are some ways you (general you (know him?)) keep morale up (or at least attempt to) for both the sailors and the patients?

Also, do you like memes and if so, what are some of your favourites?

Navydevildoc104 karma

My personal morale boosters are running the ramps for exercise, throwing a rugby ball around, BSing with my shipmates, or hanging out in a hammock under a moonless night and watching the stars.

Memes... oh man, the memes... our entire office is covered in memes.

Morgrid41 karma

Thoughts on the medical capacity of the Wasp class ships?

Navydevildoc63 karma

Wasps and the new America class are awesome. Especially with the embarked Fleet Surgical Team. The way they fit into the medevac structure means they will actually see more patients than a Mercy class ship, but the patients going to Mercy will be more complex.

If you need anything more complicated than general surgery, you are headed to the T-AH.

Morgrid19 karma

Have you seen the new Lewis B Puller?

Navydevildoc34 karma

Sure have! In fact, one of the previous Mercy captains was part of the precom and got to design the ship's crest.

bosloc38 karma

Hey man naval architect here. You guys do an awesome job. I'm interested in what kind of lifespan does the ship have and could it be retrofitted at the end to serve in a commercial function? Also do you ever hire commercial contractors for work on the ship (maintenance, repairs, etc)? I'm guessing the ship is ABS classed.

Navydevildoc53 karma

Last question first, absolutely ABS classed.

The ships just entered service life extension, pushing us out to 2035 or something like that. You wouldn't want these old girls after that in my opinion.

Contractors are the main method of major repair and overhaul. Whether it's at a large shipyard like Vigor Marine in Portland, OR, or smaller work done by Epsilon or PCE here in San Diego.

thunderbug36 karma

Hoorah, doc. How are you doing IT with that user name? I was 8404, but got out when they wouldn't let me switch to something computer programming related.

My wife was part of the permanent skeleton crew on the Mercy a couple decades ago. Didn't leave port much. I used to do watch duty rounds with her because the lower decks creeped her out when it was dark and empty.

Thanks for the AMA - I'm learning some stuff I never knew!

Navydevildoc35 karma

I too was 8404... then like the caterpillar becomes the butterfly, I became the IT worker.

So you guys were up in Alameda then?

LostNTheNoise31 karma

I've seen the NatGeo docu on the Comfort. Thank you for your service. Its a great thing you do! What is the route that the Mercy takes?

Navydevildoc30 karma

Well the "route" is determined by the mission handed down by "Big Navy". So it would depend on where we were going, and what were were doing.

muchoarigato30 karma

What position do you play on the rugby pitch? Did you ever give the All-Navy rugby team a go?

Navydevildoc45 karma

I play lock (second row as some of you know it).

Nope, never played for All-Navy. The Marines have recently started a lot of ads on Armed Forces Network for their team.

Nowadays I just play beer league club sides. I might go join an old boys club.

Digglydoogly24 karma

You should check out the Navy v Army game if you are ever in the U.K. in April. They play every year at Twickenham, and it is one almighty drinking marathon with some rugby thrown in. And plenty of inter services banter at the bars.

Navydevildoc14 karma

I like this plan.

sadoon100029 karma

What kind of lab tests do you do. For example can you just do pt and ptt or can you do more specialized testing like factor 8 deficiencies. If you have a lab how does getting inspected by CAP work?

Navydevildoc51 karma

So, for lab tests... we can do pretty much anything. We have blood chemistry (Vitros 5.1), Immunoassay (ECiQ), Urine, blood count, a Bactec for cultures, plus an array of smaller analyzers.

The Microbiology and Cytology wings hang off of the main lab.

Blood bank is separate and has a 5,000 frozen unit capacity, as well as a fresh product collection capability.

As for how CAP works, I don't know the specifics. We have lab officers that run the lab division, and I know people come on board and sign paperwork that say we are good. Sorry I am not more helpful there?

mayhempk126 karma

What is your fondest memory?

I'm not even a USA citizen but I still like USA, thank you for your service.

Navydevildoc76 karma

So my fondest memory on board was while on one of the Pacific Partnership missions, we had an older lady on board who had cataracts so bad she was functionally blind. We can insert new lenses in an eye and fix the cataract. In this particular case, I happened to be in the recovery room when she had the bandage taken off her eye, and she saw her grandson for the first time.


NoNormals23 karma

Hey doc, thanks for your service and hope y'all help the fuck out of our fellow Americans.

Any advice for a new corpsman? Career wise/ in general.

Navydevildoc20 karma

How new we talkin? You already in the fleet?

NoNormals15 karma

Yes first command, hospital.

Navydevildoc16 karma

OK, 0000? Or did you do C school?

ZackRdmt20 karma

Have you ever seen anything out on the seas that you could never truly explain? Sea monsters, ufos, ghost ships? Anything extraordinary like that?

Navydevildoc39 karma

Nope. Nothing strange, just the vastness of the open ocean.

fewkillallama20 karma

How many seamen are on the comfort? Also are seamen just for men or are seawomen also classified as seamen?

Navydevildoc38 karma

The maximum crew on a Mercy class ship is just over 1,300... but the exact amount will change from mission to mission.

Also, everyone is just "Seaman" if you are that rank. The Navy has lots of ways to address people. It's very confusing for the other branches to keep up, but it works very well for us.

fewkillallama10 karma

Seamen is a rank? What comes before seamen?

Navydevildoc24 karma

Seaman Recruit Seaman Apprentice

happyneandertal14 karma

Who's your money on for this next go around for the Rugby Six Nations?

Navydevildoc28 karma

I always go with Wales just because Nigel Owens is quite possibly the best thing going.

piedpipernyc14 karma

How much potable water can you make?

Navydevildoc20 karma

A LOT... I don't know the exact number but I believe it is hundreds of thousands of gallons a day.

Monoceros-27314 karma

Thanks for doing this. What’s the day to day routine like on the ship? Are there any special tasks to perform?

Navydevildoc40 karma

It really is like groundhog day. I work the normal day shift so I am usually rolling out of my rack around 0630 for a shower. Grab a rockstar out of the fridge and make my way back aft to the shop.

My early morning guy (former Marine) is usually already there. I can instantly tell what kind of day it will be from the look on his face. If he's relaxed and on Reddit that's a good day. When he's cursing out every deity created and has his fake cigarette hanging out of his mouth, that's a bad day.

Department khaki quarters (kind of a manager's quick meet) happens at 0730. We all make sure we know what's going on for the rest of the day.

Then it's typical IT stuff. Lunch happens. More IT stuff. Dinner happens. That's usually when I knock off work and go up topside to chill out for a while.

Rinse, repeat.

Seendeem11 karma

What kind of fucking devil doc spends 10 years on a ship?

Navydevildoc25 karma

The kind that already has his DD-214...

doragaes10 karma

How long does it take your ships to be ready for deployment? It seems as though NCA should've issued a dispatch order prior to the storm, rather than waiting a week.

Navydevildoc12 karma

We are in Reduced Operating Status - 5 Day. That means we have 5 days to get everyone on board and the ship ready to roll.

When NCA decides to make that happen is way above my pay grade.

naterby8 karma

When do you expect to get to Puerto Rico?

greenbabyshit12 karma

He's not onboard. He has served on a hospital ship. Also, I don't think he could tell you even if he knew, operational security rules apply to hospital ships too I believe.

However, if you figure 20 knots being a respectable speed, and Google says it's 1400 miles or so, that's a little under 3 days. Obviously, that's just math and Google searches, it could change with weather, any underway replenishment, not going in a straight line, or drastic change in speed.

Navydevildoc19 karma

I am not on board Comfort. I work on board USNS Mercy, Comfort's twin sister.

However, typically hospital ship missions are published in advance. But due to the fluid nature of the relief operations I am not sure they can really say where and when they are going.

greenbabyshit4 karma

I wasn't sure on opsec. I was on the Trenton from 01-04, and I know they wouldn't say shit then, being heightened after 9-11. I thought you might pass by that question all together so I figured I'd give a generic answer.

My only question is internet access. It was damn near non existent when out to sea in 04. I mean, it worked, technically... How is it now? Good enough to stream tv in SD?

Navydevildoc11 karma

Hahahahaa... no. The internet sucks. It works, technically.

greenbabyshit3 karma

Damn, that sucks. That was the best perk of being an IC. I had control of site tv. And I had the mwr projector set up for movies in the shop. Haha. But how many times can you watch groundhog day and down periscope? A lot. The answer is a lot.

Navydevildoc3 karma

IC shop gets a lot of love... they have a spare player and spare modulator channel so if they smile upon you (usually after an offering of Pop Tarts or a Frappacino) they will play the movie you want on demand.

whitonian6 karma

First off, thanks for your service and the aid you will will be providing. I guess I'm most curious about what your overall mission is when you get to Puerto Rico. Also, how much time do you expect to spend there?

Navydevildoc6 karma

I'm over on USNS Mercy, not on USNS Comfort, so I can't speak to their current mission too much.

Camrod914 karma

26yo ham radio operator, former sysadmin, might try helicopters in the army. Thanks for doing what you do.

Are you allowed to operate on ham radio while on a ship, when on land, how do you feel about the MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) programs slowly shutting down?

Navydevildoc8 karma

Losing Navy/MC MARS was painful.

We are allowed, and often do operate as K6MRC while at sea. When we are in a disaster response mission we will use amateur radio if needed to contact folks ashore. But if we are just steaming, we will do some CQ calls and see what we get.

Joliet_Jake_Blues-2 karma

Did the Trump adm ask you to do this because they want it to look like they're doing something for Puerto Rico (this post started 5 hours after the mayor of San Juan blasted Trump in the media)?

Navydevildoc3 karma

Huh? No.