honored Nov. 7 at the annual United Seamen’s Service Admiral of the
Ocean Sea Awards banquet in New York City. This prestigious event,
attended by more than 730 maritime leaders, honored mariners aboard U.S.
government-owned and other U.S. flagged ships who displayed outstanding
seamanship, courage and devotion to duty at sea.
Representatives from hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy and
Maritime Prepositioning Ship USNS GYSGT Fred W. Stockham received AOTOS
Mariner’s Plaques in recognition of humanitarian assistance and
The masters and crews of hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy
received special Humanitarian Service Recognition Mariner’s Plaques for
their respective four-month humanitarian deployments to Latin America
and the Caribbean in 2007 and Southeast Asia and the Pacific in 2008.
The extraordinary support provided by each ship’s 68 civil service
mariners enabled deployed medical personnel to treat a combined total of
more than 188,000 patients in 17 countries.
Mercy’s and Comfort’s civil service mariners made these historic
missions possible by safely navigating the 894-foot ships in challenging
coastal waters and undeveloped ports, transporting thousands of patients
and mission personnel between ship and shore in small boats and
providing a reliable supply of electricity and fresh water to the ships’
Reflecting the uniqueness of the deployments, the United Seamen’s
Service created the new humanitarian awards this year specifically to
honor Mercy and Comfort – a first in the awards ceremony’s 39-year
Comfort’s civil service master Capt. Edward Nanartowich and Mercy’s
civil service master Capt. Robert Wiley – accompanied by Joseph Watts,
Mercy’s chief engineer – each accepted the plaques on behalf of their
crews. Comfort’s chief engineer for the deployment, Douglas B. Puritis,
was at sea and unable to attend the ceremony.
“This award honors the entire crew,” said Nanartowich. “They saw the
potential of what they could give and went beyond it.”
The ship’s master and crew of USNS Stockham received a Mariner’s Plaque
for Typhoon Fengshen rescue efforts conducted by the ship’s master and
crew off of Sibuyan Island and Panay Island in the Philippines June 23
through July 3. Stockham’s helicopters and Navy divers aided the
Philippine Coast Guard in a 34-hour, 17,000 square mile search that
resulted in saving 43 people from an 849 passenger ferry capsized by the
Stockham’s civilian master Capt. Perry Seyler was present at the
ceremony to accept the award.
“Seafarers are often considered the fourth arm of defense, but they do
not often get the recognition,” said United Seamen’s Service executive
director, Roger Korner. “So when seafarers get an AOTOS award, they are
so proud. It allows them to emerge to the forefront.”
Former Maryland congresswoman Helen Bentley presented four of this
year’s six awards. Military Sealift Command commander Robert D. Reilly,
Jr. presented the two humanitarian awards to Comfort and Mercy.
The United Seamen’s Service promotes the welfare of American seafarers
and their dependents, seafarers of all nations, U.S. government military
and civilian personnel and other persons engaged in the maritime
Military Sealift Command operates approximately 110 noncombatant,
merchant 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.