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USU Alumnus Takes Command of USNS Mercy MTF

Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy on the water.

By Sarah Burford

Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) welcomed the new commanding officer of the ship’s Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), Capt. Timothy Quast, during a Change of Command ceremony at Naval Submarine Base, Point Loma, Calif., today.  Quast assumed command from Capt. John Rotruck, who has served as the MTF commanding officer since 2018.

Quast joins the Mercy’s MTF team following a position as the executive officer of the U.S. Naval Hospital, Rota, Spain. 

Capt. Quast, a third generation Naval officer, began his Navy career as a Surface Warfare officer on USS COWPEN (CG 63) and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).  Following graduation from the Uniformed Health Service University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine in 2002, an internship at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and a residency in pulmonary and critical care at Walter Reed Medical Center, he returned to active duty at Walter Reed, deploying to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he served as the Intensive Care Unit director, overseeing the care of hundreds of wounded coalition warriors during the “Kandahar Surge”.

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Timothy Quast
USU class of 2002 graduate Navy Capt. (Dr.) Timothy Quast took
command of the medical treatment facility for the hospital ship USNS
Mercy, Aug. 17, 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo)

In addition, Quast has held various positions throughout the Navy Medicine community including U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, Naval Medical Center San Diego, and most recently Naval Hospital, Rota Spain. 

“I am humbled to accept the honor of taking command of the Medical Treatment Facility of USNS Mercy.  This is an honor I do not take lightly,” said Quast in his remarks during the ceremony.  “I have three watchwords that will guide the Mercy team: Ready, Reliable and Resilient.  Our mission will be to be always ready, always reliable and ever resilient.  We will ‘Steam to Assist’ when our leaders call us into action.”

Quast relieves Rotruck who served as MTF commanding officer during a Pacific Partnership humanitarian deployment to Southeast Asia and most recently, when Mercy was deployed to Los Angeles, in support of COVID-19 pandemic response efforts in the area.  Rotruck was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for his outstanding leadership while in command of the Mercy’s MTF.  He will report to Okinawa, Japan, where he will serve as the surgeon for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

“I will be forever thankful to have been given the opportunity to lead the amazing, innovative crew of MTF Mercy, at a critical time in healthcare, both in the military and for our nation as a whole,” Rotruck said in a farewell message to the MTF.  “When called upon, you represented the very best care, whether in Los Angeles, or on foreign shores.  The collaboration and commitment of the entire team lead to our unqualified success, and I am extremely proud and grateful to have served with each of you.” 

The small ceremony, which practiced all social distancing protocols for COVID-19, was attended by Rear Admiral Timothy Weber, Commander, Naval Medical Forces Pacific, Capt. Gabe Varela, commander Military Sealift Command Pacific, friends and family and was also broadcast virtually.

“I’d like to acknowledge that today’s change of command ceremony is a departure from tradition as we embrace modern technology to bring people together through digital means in a post-COVID world,” said Weber in his remarks.   “While this is different, it is no less a momentous occasion for this Command, these Commanding Officers, those participating in the ceremony, and those witnessing it.”

Mercy is currently in Portland, Ore., undergoing maintained in preparation for future missions and taskings.

A Navy Captain salutes another Navy Captain. They are dressed in white uniforms on Naval Submarine Base Point Loma, California.
Capt. John Rotruck (right) turns over command to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) Medical Treatment Facility
to Capt. Timothy Quast (Left) during a Change of Command Ceremony on Naval Submarine Base Point Loma, Calif. (Photo by Sarah Burford, Military
Sealift Command Pacific)