Captains of USNS Mercy, the hospital ship docked in Los Angeles, are Eagle Scouts

Capt. Rotruck (above) commands the hospital aboard USNS Mercy, while Capt. Olmsted (below) commands the ship itself.

Updated April 2 to include that Mercy‘s Ships Master, Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, is an Eagle Scout as well. Thanks to both of these men for their service.


Leadership, service and the ability to respond quickly to complex situations. Those traits, which young people sharpen in Scouting, stay with you for life.

For the latest high-profile examples, look to the USNS Mercy, the Navy hospital ship stationed in Los Angeles to help the COVID-19 fight.

Capt. John Rotruck, the commanding officer who runs the hospital inside the ship, is an Eagle Scout. He earned Scouting’s highest honor in 1987 as a member of the BSA’s Central Florida Council.

And Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, the civilian Ships Master who runs the ship, is an Eagle Scout, too. He earned the award in 1989 as a member of Troop 101 in San Rafael, Calif., part of the Marin Council.

Rotruck’s medical personnel aboard the USNS Mercy won’t handle COVID-19 cases. Instead, his crew will treat medical issues not related to COVID-19. That will allow doctors and nurses at traditional hospitals in the Los Angeles area to focus their efforts on patients affected by the virus.

Thanks to Rotruck and Olmsted’s leadership, the USNS Mercy began accepting patients on Sunday — just a day after arriving in Los Angeles. In true Scouting fashion, Rotruck deflected credit for the rapid response.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew for all the hard work they did to get us here and ready in such a short time,” Rotruck said in the official U.S. Navy news release. “The men and women embarked on board Mercy are energized, eager and ready to provide relief to those in need.”

Distinguished Eagle Scout Ray Capp has worked with Rotruck in Capp’s previous role as chairman of the Order the Arrow, Scouting’s honor society.

Rotruck is a longtime member of the Order of the Arrow Committee, and Capp calls him “a terrific human being.”

But before Rotruck was an OA volunteer, he was a youth in the program.

“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” says Mike Hoffman, Chairman of the National Order of the Arrow Committee.

More about Capt. Rotruck

Rotruck has been a physician in the U.S. Navy for 24 years.

He was commissioned in the Navy Medical Corps in 1996. Before that, he attended the University of Miami, where he earned a bachelor’s in biology, his medical degree and an MBA.

While in the Navy, Rotruck has served our country both domestically (Maryland, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia) and abroad (Japan, Korea and throughout Southeast Asia).

Before his current position aboard the USNS Mercy, Rotruck served as Chief of Staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Join me in thanking Capt. Rotruck for his service to our country. He’s just one of countless examples of Scouts serving others during this nation’s time of need.

What Scouting friends are saying about Capt. Rotruck

Ed Pease: “John exemplifies everything that is best in us.”

Michael Thompson: “Dr. Rotruck’s life exemplifies the hopes and dreams we have for every youth in Scouting — that they develop the character and abilities to impact their own community by self-sacrifice and caring for others.”

Ron Bell: “During John’s time in South Florida, while attending medical school at the University of Miami, I had the privilege of his service to our lodge as a co-adviser to our ceremonies team. His passion for Scouting and the OA was nothing but outstanding.”

Jason Wolz: “From his earliest days in the OA (his induction in 1987), John has embodied the highest ideals of the Order.”

Bill Loeble: “I was quietly watching the COVID-19 coverage … when they went to the USNS Mercy. As they began an interview with the ship’s commander, Capt. John Rotruck, I did a double-take. Yes, this is the same John Rotruck I knew so well over the years through his involvement and leadership in the Order of the Arrow. I remember him as a quiet, unassuming leader with a distinctly deep voice. He makes the BSA and especially the Order of the Arrow very proud.”

Jack Butler: “John was my final section chief in 1992-1993. He had previously been our section secretary and then section vice chief running our November Section Seminars — and did a superb job at that.”

More about Capt. Olmsted

Capt. Olmsted began his career serving aboard ammunition ships and oilers. From 1999 to 2003, his tour of duty aboard ammunition ship Flint included two Arabian Gulf combat deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

As First Officer (civilian XO) aboard fast combat support ship Rainier, Captain Olmsted helped convert the former Navy vessel to MSC operation and assisted with the Navy’s immediate aid to Indonesian tsunami victims in 2005. He also served as First Officer aboard oiler Pecos, ocean tug Navajo, and salvage ships Grasp and Salvor.

Since 2007, Capt. Olmsted has commanded seventeen Military Sealift Command ships in the Pacific, Far East, Atlantic, Caribbean and Arabian Gulf.

Capt. Olmsted has received the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, two Merchant Marine Outstanding Achievement Medals, and several unit and expeditionary awards for his contributions at sea.

About Bryan Wendell 3041 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.