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Arrowman Spotlight - Captain of the USNS Mercy

  Clayton Carte             OA Today

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John Rotruck in his Navy uniform

For many Arrowmen, the Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in canceled Scouting events and staying at home. For United States Navy Captain John Rotruck, his Coronavirus pandemic experience has been quite the opposite. He has led a team of doctors and medical professionals aboard the USNS Mercy to the frontlines of the pandemic. The Mercy is stationed in the Los Angeles harbor providing medical treatment to non-COVID-19 patients.

When not deployed for pandemic response, the USNS Mercy has participated in humanitarian aid partnerships across the Pacific Ocean. The San Diego-based ship provided medical treatment to tsunami victims in South East Asia in 2004 and has since visited countries throughout the region. The USNS Mercy is one of two floating hospitals maintained by the US Navy. Weighing over 65,000 tons and measuring 894 feet long, the two ships are the third-longest type of vessel in the Navy fleet surpassed only by our nation’s aircraft carriers. The onboard hospital is equipped with 1,000 hospital beds, eleven operating rooms and 80 intensive care beds. Captain Rotruck is the commanding officer for the hospital unit.

Rotruck is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow. He earned his Eagle Scout award in 1987 as a member of the BSA’s Central Florida Council. John was inducted into the OA one year prior in November 1986 and his involvement in the Order has included serving as a section chief and NOAC conference vice chief. As an adult, he has served on the national committee and now works as a key volunteer.

When asked how being a member of the OA has impacted him, Capt Rotruck referenced planning a conclave and running the council of chiefs as great experiences. “Those early lessons in governing and group directing have transitioned to a much larger scale.” He explained, “I continue to manage the same group dynamics but in a different way.” Captain Rotruck offered an important message about Scouting and applying our ideals to the global pandemic. “This pandemic is facing the entire world. We need to band together to get through it. The OA specifically teaches us about brotherhood,” he said. “It is amazing to see youth and adults come together to interact with each other [in Scouting]. If we expand that to the world, we would be in a much better place.”

Mike Hoffman, Chairman of the National Order of the Arrow Committee, also reflected on Rotruck’s service as a youth translating to today’s events: “John’s leadership as a youth in the Order of the Arrow as a lodge and section officer clearly paved the way for his command of the Mercy.” Ray Capp, former national Chairman, described John as “a terrific human being.” Service to one another is a key theme within the OA. Rotruck lives by this daily helping and leading others onboard USNS Mercy. Before his current position, Rotruck served as Chief of Staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He was commissioned in the Navy Medical Corps in 1996 and has served twenty-four years as a physician.

When asked his favorite OA memory, Captain Rotruck put others before himself. “The OA as an organization focuses on service to others. One of my highlights was when Jason Wolz was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award. He was a section chief as well who did an amazing job.” Rotruck’s contributions to the OA have included work on the national inductions guide and serving on induction staff at NOACs. When asked which ceremonial principle he best relates to, he answered “Meteu. The principle is contemplated and perspective. He spends time listening.” He continued, “I like to pull in the material and relevant information and make sure everyone around me is heard. I certainly want everyone to have a chance.”

In closing, Capt Rotruck provided Arrowmen a special message as they adapted during the pandemic: “Take care of each other. Take care of family, friends and yourself. If you live by the principle of love one another, everything else will fall into place.” He also offered to Los Angeles residents, where the hospital ship is deployed and providing treatment, that ”[the USNS Mercy represents] the power of NAVY medicine on behalf of our country.”