Monday, September 15, 2008

Helping Haiti

Team Continuing Promise was tasked September 5 to divert our mission in Colombia and quickly steam to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We are here conducting Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations in support of the relief efforts in order to mitigate human suffering and loss of life due to the effects of current hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike.
After we received the order to pull out of Santa Marta, Colombia, early – which was unfortunate but necessary in this case- we heard more and more detailed reports of the suffering in Haiti. On the day we arrived, I took an orientation helicopter ride over this country, and the despair drifted up.
Flooding, mud, and landslides had washed-out roads, all results from the successive storms. There was major damage to agriculture.
Seven days later, here we are. Flooded with flashbacks from the last time this ship and her crew completed a similar mission. One year ago we were doing the exact same thing off the coast of Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr devastated that area. With such vivid memories of that mission, every crewmember understands the significant contribution that we make, and all eagerly volunteer their support.
In this one short week our tremendous Sailors have provided so much relief to the Haitians. Initially, everyone’s immediate concern was the destruction to the transportation infrastructure. Damaged bridges and highways are making it extremely difficult for USAID and the NGOs to deliver food and supplies from our drop sites to the remote areas. USS Kearsarge travels along the coast of Haiti, allowing our helicopters, LCU and LCM boats to journey back and forth delivering supplies to cities in the north and south of Haiti.
We still have challenges. Government, non-government and private organizations – all arrived in Haiti eager to help but were working independently of one another. Now we attend daily meetings with the Haiti Government, USAID, World Food Program, the Office of Foreign Disaster Relief, Center for Disease Control, a Canadian ship and various other partners working to relieve the suffering. Team Continuing Promise provides tremendous air and surface heavy lift capabilities that were lacking before we arrived. Integrating and communicating with these partners is paying off, with an increase in the amount of relief supplies being delivered by both surface and air lifts.
Our aircrew and boat crews are laboring around the clock. Our helicopters pick up 105 pound bags of rice and beans provided by NGOs and deliver them to hard-hit areas. Crewmembers heave and throw these heavy bags under the hot sun, and no one complains. Our LCU and LCMs also deliver food and water. Night and day, Sailors volunteer for working parties, filling these 2.5 gallon bags of water and loading them onto the boats for daily deliveries. Today we delivered 4,000 2.5 gallon bags of water to the different cities.
Each day we are out delivering food and water reveals damages that are even more extensive and expansive than imagined. The flooding recedes to reveal the full extent of devastation. Crops and homes are destroyed, especially in the valleys and low lying areas. The country's food sources have been heavily impacted and the need for future assistance will be great. Ours is to help bring immediate relief and aid to the suffering, and we believe, and are being told, that our presence is making a tremendous difference. Today a gentleman from France, who is with World Food Program, told us that it would be a “nightmare” without us here. That statement alone assures us that our tremendous and laboring efforts are doing what we intended, alleviate the pain caused by the storms and restore hope to the people of Haiti.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think its great that we are able to help Haiti though we can't even help most of the people in our own country. My husband is currently on the Kearsarge and I'd also like to thank you for updating here since you don't EVER post on the ships family and friends site. I'm also curious why so much info is made public online yet my spouse has to be careful what he says due to OPSEC. Again, thanks for at least updating here and I do think its great that we are able to help others but I also think we should look into helping our own too.

Teri said...

Dear Anonymous, When you say your husband is "on the Kearsarge" does that mean that he is ships company or is he assigned to COMPHIBRON 8? I'm not sure if this will help you, but they are two completely different Commands. Captain Ponds (the author of this blog) is the Commodore of Amphibious Squadron 8. You can read his bio on his Commands site at -
http://www.cpr8.surfor.navy.mil/default.aspx
Click on the Commanding Officer link.
I can assure you this website is maintained and updated as information is authorized for release by the Public Affairs Office. There are also links to many useful sites on the Family Support Page
If you are referring to the USS Kearsarge website - http://www.kearsarge.navy.mil/default.aspx - I would suggest that you direct your question to the webmaster of that website. Again, they are two different Commands and the sites are maintained by two different departments.
I hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Oh! My apologies, thank you I was getting confused.