USNS Mercy departs San Diego
The USNS Mercy departs San Diego. Navy photo

The hospital ship USNS Mercy and its staff of doctors and nurses left San Diego this week for a exercise to test compatibility with new Navy support aircraft.

During the exercise, the Navy will evaluate the ship’s aviation facilities for compatibility with new variants of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

The Mercy last left San Diego for Los Angeles in the spring of 2020 to provide overflow hospital capacity during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Mercy crew has been looking forward to this day for over seven months, and the excitement is palpable,” said Capt. Timothy Quast, the medical team’s commanding officer. “We look forward to having the Osprey becoming a part of the Navy Medicine team, as it truly enhances our capabilities.”

The Osprey lands and takes off vertically, but can fly much faster than a helicopter, enabling wounded personnel to be brought to the hospital ship more quickly.

Over 100 additional sailors embarked on the ship for the exercise.

“We have a lot of new crew members, and we’re looking forward to the upcoming periods at sea so we can continue working together, becoming a cohesive unit and prepared for any upcoming missions or tasking,” said Capt. Peter Nolan, the ship’s master. “After so much repair time ashore, we are excited to be underway again.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.