Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tarawa, 11th MEU take over relief efforts

Staff report
Posted : Tuesday Dec 4, 2007 12:20:24 EST

The amphibious assault ship Tarawa, carrying Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, relieved the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge on Monday to support ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Bangladesh.

San Diego-based Tarawa arrived several days after Norfolk, Va.-based Kearsarge, which is carrying members of the 22nd MEU from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“I am extremely proud of the entire Navy-Marine Corps team onboard Kearsarge,” Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, Task Force 76 commander, said during an all-hands call, according to a press release. “Through your teamwork and efforts, you undoubtedly saved countless lives and gave a face to the world’s generosity and compassion.”

Cyclone Sidr struck the region Nov. 15, claiming more than 3,200 lives. Kearsarge arrived Nov. 22 to begin providing aid after steaming more than 3,000 miles in less than six days from the coast of Somalia.

More than 205,000 pounds of supplies, including food, blankets and 14,000 gallons of drinking water, have been delivered.

“As a team, we executed an effective, efficient and, perhaps most importantly, safe operation,” Col. Doug Stilwell, 22nd MEU commander said in a release. “We demonstrated just how ideal a sea-based operation is for relief efforts — capable of delivering significant relief ashore while minimizing our footprint and thereby not placing unnecessary strain on the host nation.”

Heavy- and medium-lift helicopters from Kearsarge flew more than 80 sorties and 331 hours in support of the relief operations, according to the release. Two medical teams provided care to nearly 1,600 patients and dispensed 2,000 prescriptions from a mobile pharmacy.

“We were pleased to provide any help we could,” Cmdr. Dave Damstra, officer-in-charge of Fleet Surgical Team 4, said in the release. “We saw many storm-related injuries: cuts, bruises, broken bones. Through cooperation with local Bangladeshi hospitals, we were able to maximize medical treatment.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the level of thought, care and detail that has gone into planning this operation by blue-green planners and their Bangladeshi counterparts,” said Capt. Frank Ponds, Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group commander, in a release. “I am confident that Tarawa, and her sailors and Marines, will be able to seamlessly pick-up where we left off.”

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