27 January 2010

Operation Unified Response Update


I wanted to provide you another update on our Navy’s efforts in Haiti.  Our Sailors continue to make an extraordinary contribution to the relief efforts and I continue to be impressed with their flexibility and willingness to help in anyway they can. 

For example, the crew of USS HIGGINS had just finished a 6 month round the world deployment and was en route to their homeport in San Diego transiting the Caribbean when the earthquake struck.  USS HIGGINS immediately diverted to help the people of Haiti and was the first Navy ship on station.

Overall, the response of our Navy continues to be rapid and effective.  Since my last post, we have established a Joint Logistics Hub in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and our Sea Base is providing aid by helo and LCAC to remote locations currently inaccessible any other way due to the significant damage to Haiti’s infrastructure.  We’ve also provided a field hospital ashore to improve effective patient flow to our afloat operating rooms.

One capability we are bringing to bear that I find particularly interesting is our Navy Logistics Over-The-Shore (LOTS).  With the damage to Haiti’s port, the investments in Military Sealift Command’s NLOTS are proving invaluable.  With the maritime prepositioning ship, USNS 1ST LT. JACK LUMMUS (T-AK-3011), we are able to transfer large construction equipment and up to 200 twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) per day ashore (roughly half the capacity of Haiti’s port in Port-Au-Prince before the earthquake).  Over the coming weeks, USNS LUMMUS will be joined by the CAPE MARY, GOPHER STATE, CORNHUSKER STATE, and PETERSBURG – which will increase our TEU capacity to 1500 per day and offshore petroleum discharge capacity to 300,000 gallons per day.  If you are interested, I have posted a LOTS overview here.  Our Logistics Hub at GTMO, our Sea Base, and our LOTS are all impressive capabilities our Navy has established in Haiti and have greatly relieved the significant pressure on Haiti’s airport, seaport, and hospitals.

One final note, I received the below email from Captain Dominic DeScisciolo.  Dom was one of my former Department Heads when I was the CO of USS CAPE ST. GEORGE and is currently the CO of USS BUNKER HILL (CG-52).  Dom’s email is a great representation of “a day in the life” of our ships and what is being accomplished everyday by our Sailors.


We are on our fourth town since last week. As you know, we began on the southwest coast of La Gonave at Point-a-Raquettes. We have since distributed relief aid to Anse-a-Galets, La Source, and Gros Mangle on the northwest coast of La Gonave. All of the towns mentioned, if not affected directly by the earthquake, are feeling some sort of indirect need due to the internally displaced people (IDPs) and the disruption of normal supply lines from Port Au Prince. And we've been figuring it out and getting more effective and efficient at delivering relief as we go along. The system goes something like this:

My Ops Boss arranges for a helo flight and takes picture after picture of potential communities in need, ingress and egress points, distribution areas, landing zones, places to access via RHIB and where to moor on the shore. Myself, my XO, CMC, DH's, Chaps, and HMC huddle up that evening and review the photos Ops took that day. We practice the art of the possible in determining where we will put folks ashore and what we could potentially accomplish based on the size of the town, location, natural features, whether there are NGO contacts (like our Fr. Roosevelt from the first town) we could exploit to our advantage, etc.

The next morning I position the ship as close to shore as possible. Due to the lack of sufficient charts in this area, we're being forced to get close to the beach in support of RHIB ops by sight, feel, and fathometer - which can get pretty sporty. Cheng then leads my two RHIBs ashore for a detailed eyes-on survey of the town, scouts out the most suitable LZ, and establishes a security perimeter manned by my Weapons Officer and his team. We then work with the town 'elders' through a combination of translators and our Chaplain, to set up the food and water distribution points. My HMC and his assistants go right to work in the town "clinic" (usually a thatch-roofed affair under a palm tree). The worst medical cases we arrange for medevac. They usually include the IDP's that have sought refuge here on La Gonave from Port-Au-Prince. By around noontime food, water and medicine start flowing in from the ship via RHIB and helo (if avail; we don't have our own embarked helo det - we've been begging helos each day from air ops on the CSG staff) and gets handed out like an assembly line. We can usually get about 2,000 individual meals and about 1,000 gal of water in to the beach each day before we have to wrap up near sunset. We have been averaging 1-2 days per town to try to bring them up to a 'pre-earthquake condition' in terms of food, water, and medical care. We are beginning to see a decline in injuries directly attributed to the quake or its aftermath. We are now seeing more injuries and illnesses that are in keeping with the generally low standard of living, malnutrition, and poverty that prevails in this country.

Anyway - just wanted to give you a glimpse of our day-to-day existence since my last e-mail. No end in sight just yet. But morale is SKY-HIGH and we're happy to keep perfecting our "system" for the time being.





BZ! Amazing, Sir, Simply amazing. Thank you for the SITREP, Sir! I'm posting a link to this on facebook.


Galrahn said...

Excellent update sir, thank you very much.

Byron said...

BZ, ADM, to you and Team Navy. Stirling example of "can do!" for the US Navy. Thanks for the heads up, sir.

Chris Lewis said...

Very interested to read about your efforts to help the Haitians in their distress including effectively building a major seaport capability almost overnight.

Keep up the good work.