Preparing for a different kind of war, military hospital ships loaded up on fuel in preparation for the Defense Department’s support to civil authorities responding to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are on opposites sides of the country but are preparing for the same kind of battle – to relieve the overburdened hospitals caring for infected patients.
“Defense Logistics Agency Energy’s priorities are exactly the same as the Department of Defense’s priorities: Protecting our people, supporting military Service readiness, and supporting the whole-of-government interagency response to the pandemic,” said DLA Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Albert G. Miller. “Providing the fuel to these hospital ships is just one example of DLA Energy fueling the platforms supporting our nation’s battle against this invisible enemy.”
USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles, California, Friday where it moored at the cruise ship terminals in Long Beach to serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.
Before its arrival, the hospital ship refueled at sea off the coast of California, taking on DLA Energy-supplied diesel and aviation fuel from Military Sealift Command tanker USNS Matthew Perry.
DLA Energy Americas West Commander Navy Cmdr. Mike Wilson oversees the Defense Department’s fuel operations on the West Coast and has extensive experience supporting the Navy and Marine Corps petroleum supply chains.
“We’re ensuring our military installations have plenty of high quality fuel for their ships and air assets,” Wilson said. “This is one of the ways we support in national emergencies.”
The converted San Clemente-class oil tanker took on 500,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel and 15,000 gallons of aviation fuel to conduct flight operations for logistics and medical evacuations.
Similar fuel operations are taking place in Norfolk, Virginia, as USNS Comfort accelerates her preparation for her voyage New York City according to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. The hospital ship is expected to arrive March 30 to the busy metropolitan city to relieve the burden of area hospitals tasked with responding to coronavirus concerns.
DLA Energy Americas East Commander Army Lt. Col. Julian Perez is overseeing fuel operations as the ship refuels from Defense Fuel Support Point Craney Island in Portsmouth, Virginia.
“The Craney Island Fuel Terminal in Portsmouth, Virginia is the largest Navy Defense Fuel Support Point in the United States,” Perez said. “DLA Energy ensures that there is capitalized fuel that is on specification so the Navy has fuel for ships and aircraft.”
Getting high quality fuel to ships is not as straightforward as pulling up to a gas pump. DLA Energy quality assurance representatives oversee the bulk fuel procurement, distribution and pipeline deliveries at hundreds of sites across the country. They monitor the contracts, into-plane fuel delivery, pipeline operating agreements and other chemical-related commodity contracts awarded by DLA Energy.
“DLA Energy will continue to assess and support the fuel needs for combatant commands and the federal government,” Miller said. “The Defense Department will take every step to ensure the wellness of our people, while also safeguarding our national mission capabilities.”