Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bataan Sails in Familiar Waters During HURREX 08

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christina M. Shaw

ABOARD USS BATAAN, At sea (NNS) -- The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) departed Naval Station Norfolk Sept. 2 for HURREX 08-002 to demonstrate at-sea readiness for disaster response.

It will give Bataan a chance to demonstrate their ability to respond to humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief needs during the 2008 hurricane season.

"This will be a valuable time for us at sea, and we'll stay out as long as we need to," said Capt. Rick Snyder, Bataan's commanding officer.

Nearly 1,100 Sailors make up Bataan's crew, and Snyder believes their "big hearts" may be even more important than the state-of-the-art equipment and capabilities that makes the ship an ideal platform for disaster-relief operations.

"The Sailors are all great Americans who are ready to take care of other Americans, that's probably the best asset we have," said Snyder.

During the course of the exercise, the ship and embarked commands will test their ability to coordinate and perform search and rescue operations, evacuations and provide medical care.

The coordination among all units involved was tested immediately when Commander, U.S. Second Fleet directed the short-notice underway to commence the exercise.

"Bataan is like a well-oiled machine," said Capt. Jack Sotherland, Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group commodore. "Everybody was notified; they recalled their personnel, and we went ahead and made it happen."

Bataan Sailors proved themselves during real-world events just three years earlier. The ship was on station in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 20, 2005, and was the first Navy ship on scene after Katrina, a category 4 hurricane, made landfall.

The crew went right to work and spent 19 days supporting the relief efforts by moving more than 1,600 people to safety and delivering more than 160,000 pounds of supplies to the Gulf Coast states.

"We moved food, water and neonatal materials to the area, because everything was bad," said Storekeeper First Class (SW/AW) Antonio Gillespie, stock control leading petty officer. "This time, all the ships and commands got together to coordinate who needs to be where in order to be on site in a more timely fashion."

Embarked squadrons for the exercise include equipment and personnel from Commander, Amphibious Squadron Two; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Tactical Squadron 21, Fleet Surgical Team Six, Assault Craft Unit Two and Four and Beachmaster Unit Two.

Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. She was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name.