May 5, 2020 – In support of the Navy’s response to cases of COVID-19 onboard USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Makin Island (LHD 8) escorted Kidd to San Diego to allow crew members to receive medical treatment.
During transit, Makin Island refueled Kidd and ultimately received 15 patients who needed additional care.
On April 23, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet redirected the amphibious assault ship, with embarked aviation squadrons, the “Scorpions” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 and the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, to rendezvous with Kidd to establish a COVID-19 afloat medical response in the event the ship needed assistance during its transit to San Diego.
“We were standing by and able to bring those Sailors to Makin Island while still maintaining isolation and quarantine of them and the medical professionals that we have onboard who treated them,” said Capt. Chris Westphal, commanding officer Makin Island. “We took every precaution to ensure the safety of both Makin Island and Kidd Sailors, and to ensure Kidd returned to San Diego safely, and we were proud to be able to help our fellow shipmates.”
Makin Island provided a surface independent duty corpsman and additional medical supplies to bolster Kidd’s medical capabilities on April 26 via HSC 23 helicopter. Crew members wore N-95 masks, medical gowns over their uniforms, and nitrile gloves in addition to the required flight safety equipment.
A MH-60R from the “Wolfpack” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 75 embarked aboard Kidd conducted all patient transfers.
Following their flights, aircrew members also participated in decontamination practices, and helicopters as well as all gear used were heavily sanitized.
Sailors aboard Kidd requiring advanced care, or who showed symptoms likely to elevate, were transported to Makin Island where extensive decontamination and quarantine procedures and equipment were in place. Medical providers who treated COVID-19 patients remained in quarantine while their patients were aboard the ship. After returning to port and transporting patients to shore medical facilities, they began self-isolating at their homes.
“The ability and flexibility of our amphibious force allows for the speed necessary to provide immediate assistance,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 (ESG-3). “Ensuring the health and well-being of our Sailors remains our top priority.”
A family physician, a medical regulation control officer, and the officer in charge of Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 1 sequestered in port with the Makin Island beginning March 26. An FST 1 critical care nurse, a laboratory technician, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and a respiratory therapist from FST 5, arrived April 23 as part of the effort to assist Kidd.
Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships, such as Makin Island, have robust medical capabilities that include operating rooms, acute care wards, dental examination rooms, and intensive care units. LHD medical departments consist of two medical officers, one surface independent duty corpsman, one medical service corps officer, one dental corps officer, and 19 hospital corpsmen.
Makin Island is considered a Role 2 medical treatment facility, capable of providing advanced trauma management and emergency medical treatment. Makin Island has an intensive care unit (ICU) capacity of 16 beds with the ability to provide five ICU patients critical care to include mechanical ventilation. Additionally, the ship has an acute care ward capacity of 45 beds with the ability to surge to 250 patients using troop berthing.
“The Sailors and Marines from Makin Island sailing in support of USS Kidd reflect the best of Naval Integration,” said Sobeck.