Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort's Medical Treatment Facility changed leadership May 25 as Navy Capt. Kevin J. Knoop assumed command from Navy Capt. David K. Weiss during a ceremony aboard Comfort at Canton Pier in Baltimore.
Comfort's primary mission is to serve as an afloat, mobile, acute-surgical medical facility to the U.S. military, with a secondary mission of providing hospital services for disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide. Comfort's Medical Treatment Facility, or MTF, is crewed and maintained by medical personnel from the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Knoop comes to Comfort's MTF from III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan, where he served as force surgeon.
"I am ecstatic to be taking one of the best jobs in Navy medicine," Knoop said in his ceremony remarks. "It rounds out my valued naval career and I feel prepared to fill the big shoes I'm now wallowing in."
Knoop's past tours also include assignments to U.S. Naval Hospital, Guantanamo Bay; Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station; Fleet Composite Squadron 10; Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth; the Taqqadum Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon during Operation Iraqi Freedom; and U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, Japan.
Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander, Military Sealift Command, served as guest speaker for the change of command ceremony and presented Weiss with a Legion of Merit Award for his outstanding performance as commanding officer of Comfort's MTF.
"Can you imagine a more noble and fulfilling mission than to be handed the keys to a 1,000 bed, 10-operating room hospital, with a helicopter pad and two helos as well as two waterborne ambulances, staffed by 900 military and civilian healthcare professionals, and told go forth and heal people?" said Buzby to the ceremony's audience of nearly 150 people. "It sends chills up my spine that someone would be able to go do that and that's what Capt. Weiss had the opportunity to do while in this position."
After assuming command of Comfort's MTF in July 2010, Weiss led 900 personnel through nine countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in support of Continuing Promise 2011, Comfort's six-month humanitarian and civic assistance deployment to the region. Under Weiss' supervision, more than 68,000 patients were treated and 1,100 medical procedures took place in the shipboard operating room. Weiss will report next to Stuttgart, Germany, where he will serve as command surgeon for U.S. Africa Command.
"This has been the most unique and exciting job I've ever had," said Weiss. "Serving aboard Comfort has been the greatest honor of my life so far, so it's with sadness that my tenure comes to an end today. But what remains on this ship as people like me come and go is the good that always comes of this platform."
MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.