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USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility holds Change of Command Ceremony

16 June 2023

From Jennifer Hunt

The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) held a change of command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, June 16.During the ceremony, Capt. Stephen Arles relieved Capt. Kathryn Elliot as Commanding Officer of USNS Comfort."Throughout history, hospital ships have been used to provide expeditionary health services in time
The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) held a change of command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, June 16.

During the ceremony, Capt. Stephen Arles relieved Capt. Kathryn Elliot as Commanding Officer of USNS Comfort.

"Throughout history, hospital ships have been used to provide expeditionary health services in time of war. More recently, Comfort has been utilized both in disaster relief efforts and as a tool to advance regional partnerships. These missions are life changing, not just for the people we’ve interacted with, but for our crew as well,” said Elliot. “Comfort’s team stands ready to deploy when the nation calls. That readiness is not episodic, it is a result of the constant steady strain on the part of everyone on board–mariners and sailors alike.”

“The seven years I have spent with Military Sealift Command and, in particular, the last two as the Commanding Officer of Comfort’s Medical Treatment Facility have been the highlight of my Navy career.”

Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command, presided over the ceremony.

“Kate, you and this Comfort team represented our nation at its finest, in the most public and visible way and changed lives for the better,” said Wettlaufer. “On behalf of a grateful Navy, I assert the outstanding performance of the military treatment facility under your command. Congratulations on a job exceedingly well done!”

“The greatest strength of the Navy is the incredible pool of talent we attract. We bear witness to this fact today. Just as we say goodbye to one outstanding leader, we welcome in another. Welcome aboard to Captain Stephen Arles.”

Capt. Arles reports from duty as the first Director of Maritime Operations at Naval Medical Forces Pacific.

"My team and I will work our hardest to continue the long and proud tradition of service the USNS Comfort has provided our nation,” said Arles. “We are committed to being ready, to answer the call whether it’s for disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, theater security cooperation, or in times of crisis or large-scale conflict. I will do my best to earn your confidence, trust, respect, and above all ensure we are ready for mission success.”

USNS Comfort is the second of two Mercy-class hospital ships. A converted San Clemente-class supertanker, Comfort delivered to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command Dec. 1, 1987.

The ship is crewed by Civil Service Mariners, while the hospital, known as the Medical Training Facility, is staffed by Navy personnel. The embarked MTF is under the technical control of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Military Sealift Command is the program manager for the two hospital ships and the type commander for the ship class.

The Medical Treatment Facility aboard USNS Comfort is one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and offers a full spectrum of surgical and medical services.

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