USNS Mercy’s Chief Engineer Receives Meritorious Civilian Service Medal for COVID-19 Deployment Support

Photo By Sarah Burford | Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command, (Left) presents the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal to Senjamin Tai, Chief Engineer of MSC’s hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), in port in San Diego, Calif., for his service during the ship’s 2020 COVID-19 relief deployment to the Port Of Los Angeles.

Posted on July 26, 2021

Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command, recently presented the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal to Senjamin Tai, Chief Engineer of MSC’s hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), in port in San Diego, Calif., for his service during the ship’s 2020 COVID-19 relief deployment to the Port Of Los Angeles.

Tai was instrumental in preparing USNS MERCY’s engineering plant and medical treatment facility, in preparation for the ship’s COVID-19 deployment. He returned from leave the same day that Mercy received activation orders to deploy within 5 days. Under his supervision and leadership, the Engine Department was manned and ready to within 3 days, the steam plant was warmed up and brought online safely and efficiently, all main propulsion and auxiliary systems, including hospital services, were thoroughly checked, and Mercy deployed in accordance with the 5-day activation timeline.

Once the ship was moored at the Port of Los Angeles, Tai configured the ship’s power plant and auxiliary systems to provide the hospital stable power, water, HVAC, and waste disposal services. Due to pier support limitations, MERCY remained on ship’s power for the entire mission, and the engineers kept the lights on and water running without a single failure, something the award citation noted as “a testament to Tai’s outstanding leadership, professional knowledge, and intimate familiarity with the ship’s systems.”

“I am honored to present Chief Tai with this award,” said Wettlaufer. “Recognizing the outstanding MSC CIVMARs for their hard work and dedication to their profession and the Navy is one of the best things I get to do. Chief Tai is a great example to not only the CIVMARs on Mercy’s crew, but for CIVMARs throughout MSC. I am proud to have him working with us.”

Mercy spent nearly 50 days pierside at the Port of Los Angeles, serving as a referral hospital treating non-COVID-19 patients, and in effect as a ‘relief valve’ for local hospitals as they were able to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. The ship supported the lead agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the Department of Defense’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission. While in Los Angeles, 77 patients were provided care ranging from basic medical/surgical care to critical care, to trauma. Additionally, the Medical Treatment Team conducted 36 surgeries, 77 X-ray exams, 26 CT scans and administered hundreds of ancillary studies ranging from routine labs to high-end x-rays and blood transfusion support. MSC CIVMARS operated and navigated the ship, loaded and off-loaded mission cargo, assisted with repairs to mission equipment and provided essential services to keep the MTF up and running, as well as maintaining all the physical aspects of the ship throughout the deployment.

“Receiving this award is an honor. It is nice to have your work recognized,” said Tai. “I look forward to sharing it with my family.”
For more information on careers/employment with Military Sealift Command, visit https://sealiftcommand.com/.

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