The U.S. Navy owns the oceans, ensuring freedom of navigation for allies and fighting fiercely when called upon.
But the Navy has a softer side too, filled with humanitarian relief and medical missions.The crown jewels of this effort are the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort — hospital ships with a thousand beds each.
1. The USNS Mercy and her sister ship were converted from massive supertankers. Each is 70,000 metric tons.
2. The Mercy is a mobile hospital, complete with 12 operating rooms as well as pediatric, trauma, and orthopedic areas.
3. While the Navy maintains hospital ships to provide mobile care to soldiers and Marines fighting ashore, the USNS Mercy has been primarily deployed on humanitarian missions in the Pacific.
4. Mercy is often deployed to Pacific areas where clinics, like the one below, provide basic care. Doctors can refer the patients to the USNS Mercy, which will then provide hospital-level services.
5. Patients are transported to the ship by helicopter or by "band-aid" boats.
6. When patients arrive, they are sent to the receiving area. Their medical needs will be diagnosed and they are then sent elsewhere on the ship for care.
7. When doctors need a better look at an injury, the use the onboard CT scanner.
8. For patients that require surgery, the 12 operating bays provide a modern, sterile environment for procedures.
9. Here, a doctor puts the final sutures in a patient after removing a six pound tumor from her.
10. The ship regularly trains for mass casualty events. This helps them support military operations where a lot of troops may be wounded and respond to humanitarian crises.
11. Children are welcome on the ship where onboard pediatricians treat them.
12. A pre-dental society sophomore student from the University of California-San Diego plays with a Timorese child during Pacific Partnership 2008.
13. A hospital corpsman gives a surgical screening to a child onboard the USNS Mercy in 2010.
14. Humans aren't the only patients for the USNS Mercy. The ship deploys with U.S. Army veterinarians and veterinary assistants for treating livestock and pets as well.
15. Pets and nearby wildlife can be a vector for disease, so the services of the veterinary staff help protect the human population.
16. The Mercy maintains its own combat search and rescue helicopter and crew.
17. Sailors launch and recover the birds from the upper deck of the ship.
18. Even foreign military doctors help out aboard the USNS Mercy. In this photo, an Australian Navy dentist treats patients onboard.
19. A dentist with the South Korean Navy treats a patient onboard the Mercy.
20. The USNS Mercy crew also goes ashore to help partner nations. Here, an environmental health officer tests a water well that was just dug by Navy Seabees.
21. The Mercy has its own firefighters who ensure the safety of the other sailors and patients on the ship.
22. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the ship and its mission in the Pacific Partnership.