Throughout its history, the U.S. Navy has maintained a hospital ship capacity and used this capability, at times, to support non-combat-related operations such as humanitarian assistance and natural disaster relief missions. Following responses to assist with the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. Navy’s current hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort began a series of missions (Pacific Partnership and Continuing Promise, respectively) to provide direct patient care, education exchanges for health care providers and disaster response training. This year, both the San Diego-based USNS Mercy and Norfolk-based USNS Comfort embarked on simultaneous humanitarian missions, with USNS Mercy visiting Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Vietnam and USNS Comfort visiting Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Panama.

Both USNS Mercy and...

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