Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Relief: Bring in the Navy!

Official U.S. Navy file photo of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Jeremy L. Grisham (RELEASED)
According to this Defense News.com article, the US Navy had the USS Bataan standing by to render hurricane aid
The Norfolk-based amphibious assault ship Bataan is standing by off the Texas coast to provide humanitarian assistance if called upon, 2nd Fleet spokesman Lt. Mike Kafka reported Aug. 29. Bataan, which recently completed a training exercise near the Panama Canal, “will remain in the vicinity of impacted areas until otherwise directed,” according to a 2nd Fleet statement.

At least two MH-60 helicopters are aboard the Bataan, and Kafka said three MH-53 helicopters out of Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Texas, were to fly aboard Aug. 29, with another joining them Aug. 30.
As was shown during the tsunami relief effort, these large deck amphibs and their helicopter capabilities and their LCACs can perform a substantial role in getting aid into areas near the water where roads are out.

Bring 'em in!

UPDATE: Don't forget the Seabees! See this
Gulfport is home to 3,665 active-duty Navy people, and a total of 1,256, including Seabees, sailors training for guard duty at Guantanamo and some family members, remained behind. Some of the Seabees remained on station in order to start getting the base back in working order once the hurricane passed, said Navy spokeswoman Corey Schultz.

Dooling said it was too early to tell if the Seabees would be able to help fix hurricane damage in the surrounding community.

“They’re going to have to fix themselves before they can go out and fix the community,” he said.
And this and this.

UPDATE2: Martial law in New Orleans. Water rising. Send more amphibs, generators, water purification systems and portable fire fighting systems. Logistics, logistics, logistics.

UPDATE3: Photo caption:
Gulf of Mexico (Aug. 29, 2005) - Crew members assigned to the “Blackhawks” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM-15), stationed at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, prepare to unload personnel and equipment from MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters on board the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). HM-15 embarked three MH-53E helicopters in preparation for possible relief efforts along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The MH-53E Sea Dragon is capable of carrying 55 passengers and 16 tons of cargo 50 nautical miles. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jeremy L. Grisham
More photos here.

UPDATE4: 1st Army spools up
The First U.S. Army has deployed three disaster coordination teams equipped with satellite communications equipment to help federal relief efforts in Gulf Coast states hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Army Lt. Col. Richard Steele, a spokesman for the First U.S. Army, said the Defense Coordinating Elements teams deployed to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Each team has as many as 30 people. They are equipped with handheld Iridium satellite phones and military single channel tactical satellite communications terminals for voice communications.

The First U.S. Army handles disaster response east of the Mississippi River while the Fifth U.S. Army handles that mission west of the river, Steele said.

The Defense Coordinating Elements teams are also equipped with Inmarsat terminals and video teleconferencing systems made by U.K.-based Scotty Group, Steele said. A team deployed to Baton Rouge, La., has similar satellite communications capabilities.

The teams will handle requests for military support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state officials and pass on those requests to military officials. If they approve the requests, the teams will then control and manage any military assets or systems sent to the disaster areas.

Col. James Hickey, chief of staff for the First U.S. Army, said satellite communications are often critical in a hurricane’s aftermath. “One of the things we learned last year with the series of hurricanes that passed through Florida was the need for satellite communications,” Hickey said.

As usual, the US Coast Guard is doing a magnificent job. Their Katrina web site is here. Photo is from their site. Their aircraft have rescued over 1200 people.

UPDATE6: More on DOD effort here
The Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to support debris removal and laying plans to survey and begin emergency repairs on the levee system around New Orleans that partially gave way during the storm, Gene Pawlik, a Corps of Engineers spokesman, said.

As of 8 a.m. today, almost 3,800 Louisiana Army and Air Guard members were on duty to remove debris, provide security and shelter, distribute water, food and ice, and offer medical and law-enforcement support, National Guard Bureau officials said.

The Louisiana Guard was coordinating with Florida, Georgia and Texas to secure two UH-60 Black Hawk and five CH-47 Chinook helicopters to support their operations, officials said.

In Mississippi, more than 1,900 Guard troops were providing similar support, basing their operations at Camp Shelby.

The Mississippi Guard coordinated with the National Guards in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Arkansas to add four UH-60s and three CH-47s to the relief effort. In addition, the Alabama National Guard is contributing an engineer battalion and military police battalion to Mississippi's hurricane response.

In addition to the 300 military police and 500 engineers it is sending to Mississippi, the Alabama National Guard had another 800-plus troops on duty to support that state's Emergency Management Agency, Army Lt. Col. Bob Horton, an Alabama Guard spokesman, said. These troops are staging support equipment around flood-struck areas, and 450 of them will head to Mobile today to support law enforcement officials and enforce security, he said.

The Arkansas National Guard also mobilized 350 members to assist with hurricane relief efforts in Mississippi. The Arkansas troops include an engineer battalion, transportation company and military police company, officials said. In addition, two UH-60s plan to leave Camp Robinson, Ark., to support search-and-rescue operations.

The deploying troops will also contribute Humvees, dump trucks, 5-ton trucks, tractor-trailers, generators and lights to the effort, officials said.

In Florida, more than 700 Florida Guard members were on active duty, working out of logistical support sites in Miami and Homestead to provide ice and water distribution support.

The Guard was preparing to ship 1,000 cots to Louisiana to support relief operations there, officials said.

Krenke called the interstate cooperation a sign of the success of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. This interstate agreement enables Guard troops from one state to support operations in another state and has significantly boosted the National Guard's response capability, she explained.

Through these agreements, 98,000 Guard troops from 12 states in or near the hurricane-stricken region are available to immediately support emergency operations, she said. Nationwide, an estimated 337,000 Guard troops are available to be deployed to states impacted by the hurricane.

UPDATE7: Michelle Malkin on military action.

UPDATE8:More on military activity: here.
The Pentagon effort includes the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, whose helicopters have been flying relief missions from off the Louisiana coast.

The ship, which resembles a small aircraft carrier, can produce large quantities of fresh water and is equipped with 600 hospital beds. (Watch video report on storm-related health risks)

Several other ships, including a rescue and salvage vessel and the USS Iwo Jima, another amphibious assault ship, are on their way from Norfolk, Virginia, the Navy said.

The USNS Comfort, a floating hospital based in Baltimore, Maryland, will depart in coming days. A medical crew from Bethesda Naval Hospital will staff the ship. It has full hospital capabilities, including operating rooms and hundreds of beds.

More than 125,000 National Guard troops have been activated in 19 states and Washington, D.C., to help local agencies with traffic control, security, distributing food, and search and rescue, a Guard spokesman said.

The Coast Guard, whose crews have been assisting in the rescue of people stranded by high water in the New Orleans area, is recalling 550 reservists to assist in the relief effort.

The Air Force said it was sending two large cargo planes to the region -- a C-5 Galaxy to Louisiana and a C-17 to Mississippi.

Besides humanitarian aid, the C-5 is bringing in swift boats, which can maneuver in shallow floodwaters to ferry rescue workers and victims. The C-17 is outfitted to evacuate 36 sick and injured people at a time.

The Air Force also deployed MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to Mississippi for search and rescue efforts.

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