The Use of Hospital Ships for Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Humanitarian Assistance Operations
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPT
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The two hospital ships, USNS MERCY T-AH 19 and USNS COMFORT T-AH 20, were originally designed to respond to traditional wars and to augment U.S. Government agencies in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Since their commissioning, the hospital ships have been deployed in support of their actual wartime requirements only twice, for Operations DESERT SHIELDDESERT STORM and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. For humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, their use has been limited. The purpose of this paper is to support the proposal that Combatant Commanders and subordinate Joint Task Force Commanders should consider the employment of these underutilized assets to provide assistance to nations in need of humanitarian assistance. The demand for international humanitarian assistance has increased over the last decade and, concurrently, U.S. military involvement in humanitarian assistance operations has increased. The failure to use available assets, such as the hospital ships, may prevent achieving the optimal desired end-state. The advantages of using hospital ships for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations include their high level of capability, versatility, mobility, and their strong symbolism of American goodwill. This author believes that these benefits outweigh the disadvantages of concerns for safety, financial burden, and manpower issues. Hospital ships are valuable assets to consider in the planning for joint, interagency, and multinational medical missions to benefit the worlds potential humanitarian assistance recipients.
- Medical Facilities, Equipment and Supplies
- Marine Engineering