When a catastrophic magnitude 7.0-earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, nations across the globe scrambled to provide needed supplies and aid to the disaster victims.
The USNS Comfort—the Navy’s 900-foot-long, thousand-bed hospital ship—was docked in the shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland, the day the quake surprised the world. Having just undergone repairs and maintenance, she was mostly empty of supplies and personnel. Typically, it would take five days to get her ready for her next mission. But once the quake struck, time was no longer an available commodity. As news of the disaster was still permeating the airwaves, Rear Admiral (RADM) Mark H. Buzby, head of Military Sealift Command, received orders that the Comfort was to set sail for Haiti immediately.
What followed, RADM Buzby told Fast Forward, was an unprecedented feat of logistics. A clockwork-like coordination of people, vehicles, and supplies, moved at frantic speed, fueled by a single-minded determination to ready the Comfort for what could be her most important humanitarian mission to date. Medical supplies, military and civilian personnel, food, and equipment streamed in from every direction toward the gigantic ship. Supply trucks and personnel vehicles carrying crew members, doctors, nurses, and Navy personnel lined up for blocks to deliver much-needed cargo to the Comfort.
“It was just an amazing effort and outpouring of concern, all focused on helping the people of Haiti,” RADM Buzby said.
In less than 72 hours, the USNS Comfort departed from Baltimore on its way to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
“We got the ship down there in record time,” RADM Buzby said. “In about three days, we got that ship from a dead stop to steaming out on its way to Haiti, and it was just amazing.”
RADM Buzby recounts the preparation of the USNS Comfort and the days that followed as an unforgettable example of people uniting to support others in need.
“There was just nothing but good going on. People helping people. There were 20 births that occurred on the ship. And countless lives were saved. Just because people came together, focused on doing their job, and excelling at it. It was a pretty magnificent thing,” he said.
Buzby explains that it wouldn’t have been possible without the maritime and logistics transportation professionals who use their problem-solving and planning skills to support each and every mission. The men and women who operate the ships, who drive the trucks and trains, who coordinate and deliver vast quantities of people and resources, and who choreograph the clockwork-like movements of the nation’s supply lines in times of peace and war are invaluable to the maritime industry. These are the people who prepared the USNS Comfort for her life-saving journey and sailed her to Haiti.
“Nothing happens until something moves,” he said. “And the people who make things move are in the transportation and logistics industry.” He added, “It remains a very bright spot in our history, where we were able to step up and make a big difference.”
To learn more about the maritime and logistics industries, check out our interview with RADM Buzby. Also, go to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Web page, which is a great destination for students who are interested in the maritime or logistics industry or who have their sights set on military service in any branch.
“One of the great things is the opportunities you have when you graduate [from the Academy],” RADM Buzby explained. “You graduate with a bachelor of science licensed degree as either a marine engineer or a deck officer. You have a U.S. Coast Guard license that certifies you to operate unlimited tonnage, unlimited horsepower, ocean vessels either as a deck officer, leading to be a captain someday, or as an engineer, leading to be chief engineer someday. You also have a reserve commission in the Armed Forces. So you have a wide range of opportunities when you graduate to participate across a wide range of spectrum in the logistics and transportation industry or the military.”
Also, check out the National Defense Transportation Association (NDTA), of which RADM Buzby is president and CEO. NDTA is a group of transportation and logistics professionals that keep our nation’s supply lines agile and strong, especially in support of America’s military personnel.
As always, be sure to keep following Fast Forward for stories and information about careers in the transportation industry!