South Point, Ohio Native Provides Healthcare at Sea


SAN DIEGO- A 1985 Saint Joseph Central High School in Ironton, Ohio graduate and South Point, Ohio native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Mercy.

Capt. Michele Huddleston is the executive officer assigned to the hospital ship, which is homeported in San Diego. Mercy provides emergency, on-site care for U.S. combatant forces deployed in war or other operations.

“My job allows me the ability to always be introduced to new situations, new people and new experiences,” Huddleston said. “This challenges you to become the best that you can be.”

Capt. Peter Roberts, commanding officer, Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), said that while “Mercy has tremendous capabilities and capacity, the heart of the ship is her crew.”

“They make her a truly incredible asset in worldwide medical response,” Roberts said. “From the core crew charged with keeping her always ready to the greater than 1,000 sailors that come aboard at a moment’s notice, they all bring an incredible passion and their own specific talent.”

Mercy has 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT-scan and two oxygen-producing plants. The ship is equipped with a helicopter deck, capable of landing large military helicopters, and side ports that allow it to take on patients at sea.

Sailors assigned to Mercy also provide mobile surgical hospital services during humanitarian civic assistance operations. Sailors deploy to lend assistance as part of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

“Serving aboard the Mercy is being a member of a unique operational platform that allows the military to further its mission,” Huddleston said. “When we aren’t busy taking care of combat casualties, we are doing humanitarian work. All of this is central to the Navy mission and military overall.”

When Mercy is not at sea, sailors serve at military treatment facilities, where they provide patient-centered medical care for veterans, service members and their families.

“Serving in the Navy embodies the concept of selflessness,” added Huddleston. “It’s about doing what you can for the greater good. Serving is a chance to do something in a selfless manner. Eventually the Navy will ask you to give. If you embrace that, then you will get a lot out of the Navy.”