Description of Navy Hospital Ship Projects
USNS Comfort/Continuing Promise
USNS Mercy/Pacific Partnership
The Continuing Promise project, using the hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is a humanitarian event lasting 4-5 months, planned and deployed by U.S. Southern Command of the military. Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), military teams and leadership from various nations work together doing a variety of humanitarian work, including medical, veterinary, dental, and engineering projects. Ports of call are visited by groups traveling aboard the USNS Comfort and located throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The USNS Comfort is deployed in odd numbered years.
Pacific Partnership using the hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, is under the command of the U.S. Pacific Command and is deployed in even numbered years through the Pacific and Asia for the same purpose. The additional purpose of these deployments is joint readiness for disaster response and to improve relations between the United States and other countries.
For several years Latter-day Saint Charities has participated with the U.S. Navy in these projects. We have sent about 100 volunteers each year including physicians, surgeons, nurses, engineers, veterinarians, water experts, dentists, dental assistants and hygienists, translators, nutrition experts and whatever other areas of expertise the Navy requires. Volunteer files need to be complete at Church Headquarters with all needed documentation by the end of November each year to be eligible for consideration. We “recruit” from those professionals who are already in our database of medical volunteers. This is typically done via email in the early fall. All LDSC volunteers must be temple worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with an interview by their bishop to approve participation. An interview with Dr. Susan Puls will also be done as part of the initial requirements for participation.
- The Latter-day Saint Charities team is composed of LDS temple worthy members who are available to serve for the rotations which are defined by the Navy and extend from 2-6 weeks depending on the year. Those who can serve for the entire project are preferred. Couples are accepted with the understanding that there is no shipboard cohabitation. Lower age limit is 21. All volunteers must be in good physical condition and able to climb multiple sets of stairs, climb to upper level bunks, walk without difficulty, and not have health issues including use of anti-coagulants, heart valve replacements, active heart disease, insulin dependent diabetics, or those with asthma.
- The ships are 10 stories high and 300 yds. (3 football fields) long. There are MANY, MANY stairs. It is not a life for those not in good physical shape or who aren’t capable of living in hardship circumstances. You will live military rules and come and go at the direction of the U.S. Navy. You will be exposed to bad language and inappropriate movies during your time on the ship.
You will sleep (berthing) in the enlisted berthing area and eat in the enlisted men’s chow line. Do not presume that you are entitled to military officer’s privileges as an LDSC volunteer. That means a room of 120 persons with bunk beds 3 levels high with no ladder. They are small. They do have curtains. They can be difficult to get in and out of. The bathrooms are dormitory style but the showers and toilets are privately enclosed. You will have only 2 small lockers. There will be some noise. There is NO co-ed berthing aboard the ship. The only opportunities for married couples to share a room are in the liberty ports in a hotel.
- There are a few officers’ berthing assignments primarily for those of military rank which have six persons in a room with 3 sets of double bunk beds, a sink, a small table and dormitory style bathrooms down the hall.
- You will serve with many other military members, some from other countries and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) of many kinds. We hope the LDSC team will volunteer for many other duties like serving in the food line, the scullery, the pharmacy stuffing pills in bags, etc. We want to set an example of service.
- The work days are long and there are no days off in port. The ship functions seven days a week when it is in port unless it is a liberty port. The days off are those when moving from one country to another. If assigned to work off the ship, you will typically be working in hot and humid conditions.
- Navy rules will take precedence but you will also have rules and regulations from us. Breaking the rules will mean consequences which may include being sent home at your expense from the nearest port.
- The Church will pay for your travel expenses and the Navy provides room and board on the ship. If you chose to do personal travel you will pay for and arrange all of your travel for the segment of either getting to or getting home from the ship. You will cover your vaccinations and medical expenses needed for the project.
- You will be under the direction of an LDSC team leader and an LDSC group leader who will be a Navy man set apart as the ecclesiastical leader. (Acting bishop) There will be nightly devotionals for those not on duty and weekly sacrament meetings under the direction of the LDSC group leader.
- Each person is assigned a buddy for time off duty. You will need to be responsible for staying with your buddy particularly when you are off the ship.
- You will be provided with a few team shirts with the option of purchasing extra at our cost. This will be your “uniform” while aboard ship and can be worn with scrub pants, chinos/cargo style pants or similar slacks but not shorts or jeans. No dresses will be worn aboard ship.
- Mandatory orientation will be held approximately a month prior to the ship’s departure and will typically be held on a Saturday. This will be at the participant’s expense.
- The credentials of all participants will have to be completed by the end of November of the year prior to deployment in order to be considered for this project. Once the final team is selected we are not able to permit substitutions so please make every effort to complete your commitment if selected.
In spite of the potential hardship situations while serving, these are wonderful and potentially life changing humanitarian experiences and an opportunity to serve those in need around the world using the skills and talents you possess not the least of which is a smile and showing that you care about them. It is an opportunity to influence many including those with whom you serve, those you care for professionally and those you meet in the countries. It is also an opportunity to learn more about those in the military who sacrifice much to preserve our way of life in defending our country and for them to get to know us and our values.
If you are interested in serving on one of the Navy hospital ship projects and are NOT already in our database of medical volunteers, please contact me. We have a new database of medical volunteers and some data was lost in the transition.
We have a wonderful team here who help put these projects together:Elaine Bond D.NSc, APRN Gladys Lehnhof & Karen McNett: Assistants Ashley Kearl: Intern Carol Billings: Administrative Assistant
You may receive communications from any of us once your interest in this program is confirmed.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further questions.
With my best regards,
Susan Puls M.D. F.A.A.O.S. Medical Coordinator Emergency Response & Special Projects The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 50 E. North Temple Street, Room 701 Salt Lake City, UT 84150 801-240-4587,Cell 801-710-5472 Fax: 801-240-1534 Pulssu@ldschurch.org