Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bataan Amphibious Relief Force Departs, Sails Toward Haiti

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) departs Naval Station Norfolk to provide humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Goodwin/Released)

NORFOLK (NNS) -- More than 1,700 Sailors and Marines aboard ships from the Bataan Amphibious Relief Force departed Hampton Roads area Naval bases Jan. 14 en route to Haiti to assist with relief efforts following the tragic earthquake that struck the island nation Jan. 12.

Within 48 hours of receiving tasking from U.S. 2nd Fleet, the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious dock landing ships USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) and USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) were underway. The ships began loading Marines, aircraft and equipment from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in less than 24 hours of their departure.

"We're moving with a sense of urgency to provide a swift and coordinated response to assist Haiti," said Capt. Thomas Negus, commander of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. "The unique capabilities of our amphibious ships can bring much-needed assistance in the multinational efforts to relieve suffering in Haiti."

The three ships typically use air cushion landing craft, conventional landing craft and helicopters for their primary mission to move Marines ashore, but their inherent capabilities and complement of assets make it ideal for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

"Disaster relief and humanitarian assistance is something we train for," said Capt. Sam Howard, Bataan's commanding officer. "We are absolutely equipped and prepared to perform the mission we've been called upon to do."

Bataan's medical capabilities are second only to U.S. Navy hospital ships and include nearly 50 medical professionals as well as X-ray facilities, a 600-bed hospital, operating rooms, an intensive care unit, pharmacy and laboratory.

Bataan was the first Navy ship on scene in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, a category four hurricane, made landfall. The ship 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 of the United States.

In addition to Bataan, Fort McHenry and Carter Hall, the relief force includes detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Assault Craft Unit 4 and Beachmaster Unit 2. Also embarked is a maritime civil affairs team.