Navy, civilian and volunteer crew saw nearly 1,500 patients aboard ship and thousands more in the field. The ship then moved to New Orleans. During the ship's 10 days there, Comfort's medical staff worked alongside local civilian physicians to treat trauma patients aboard ship in a partnership between the Navy and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
Military members also worked to take care of their own, as well as the countless civilians in need. Officials at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., worked to feed and house 6,000 military members, civilians and their families who weathered the storm at the base.
Volunteers jumped into gear to spruce up temporary living quarters in Washington, D.C., and provide for the basic needs of military retirees displaced from their Gulfport, Miss., facility. As military folks, we go everywhere else to take care of people, and this was our opportunity to take care of our own, Air Force Master Sgt. Terry Rawlins, in charge of a 50-member detail to prepare for the retirees in Washington, D.C., said.
Military assets helped in less traditional ways, as well:
Army Corps of Engineers specialists worked to repair breaches in levees surrounding Lake Pontchartrain and to pump water out of New Orleans.
Specially equipped C-130 aircraft from the Air Force Reserve sprayed insecticide over areas affected by the hurricane to help prevent disease outbreaks.
Mortuary affairs specialists from Fort Lee, Va., and Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, assisted with body recovery, storage and identification tasks made all the more difficult because families had left the area and bodies were in stagnant water and high temperatures for weeks in some cases.
Navy and Coast Guard experts worked to salvage the Port of New Orleans for ship traffic. Wrecked ships, piers and rubble choked the harbor after the hurricane. Military experts also surveyed offshore oil storage facilities.
Special Air Force planes flew reconnaissance flights to capture aerial imagery of the devastation to help officials plan recovery and relief efforts.
Air Force combat controllers worked to reopen Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Less than a month after Katrina struck, National Guard authorities redoubled their efforts as Hurricane Rita took aim at the battered Gulf Coast. While 39,000 National Guardsmen and 13,000 more active-duty troops were still supporting relief efforts in the region, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a request for more Defense Department support to prepare for Hurricane Rita's landfall.
Officials made use of countless lessons learned from dealing with Katrina and pre-positioned supplies and forces. Texas had 2,000 National Guardsmen on state active duty in the days before Rita struck. Other Texas Guardsmen who had been helping in neighboring Louisiana headed home.
National Guard forces had the further challenge of relocating nearly 10,000 Katrina evacuees who had sought safety in Houston.
U.S. Northern Command continued its 24-hour joint operations center to monitor and coordinate DoD relief efforts. The Defense Department also deployed several mobile communications teams to help responders keep in touch despite damaged infrastructure.
As military members continued recovery efforts for an extended period after the two major storms, President Bush made several visits to the Gulf Coast.
Out of this rubble is going to come some good, Bush told troops in New Orleans during one October visit. Out of this devastation is going to come new cities and new hope. And I hope you take great inspiration in being part of the renewal of this important part of the world.