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American Forces Press Service

USS Lincoln Sailors Support Relief Effort

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Jan. 13, 2005 - While servicemembers are working double-time to get supplies into and help clean up areas devastated by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis, someone has to hold down the fort -- or, in this case, the aircraft carrier steaming in the Indian Ocean.

Lincoln sailors not directly participating in relief operations ashore are still finding ways to help. Some are simply working harder. Others have started collection drives.

Maintenance hasn't experienced any change in its duty schedule. It's still 12 hours on, 12 hours off. However, the ship's helicopters are flying supplies and personnel into the areas most in need from sunrise to sunset. And it's hard flying.

Typically these helicopters are operating over water. Flying into dirty, dusty areas makes for unusual maintenance issues, and birds present a major challenge.

"We've had more bird strikes - blade strikes - in the last two weeks than we've had all cruise," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Davis, an aviation structural mechanic.

While the maintenance crew is solving its problems, the night crew manning the ship's bakery is cooking up some comfort for the victims of the tsunamis.

On a normal night, the night bakery crew bakes nearly 400 loaves of bread. On at least one occasion, 300 more loaves were distributed with relief supplies in addition to boxes of cookies produced by the bakery.

"I volunteered (to participate directly)," Seaman Raymond Rantz said, "but they wouldn't let us." Food service workers, he explained, are not being allowed into the field to help in the relief efforts out of concern that they may pick up a contagious disease.

That doesn't mean there is a lack of volunteers, though. "We have 1,000 volunteers," said Lt. Mark Bank, a physician's assistant on the Lincoln. "The whole ship is engaged."

The maintenance crew for Helicopter Squadron Light-47, the Saberhawks, told of Operation Pop Tart. In less than two hours, the parachute riggers collected more than $900 that they used to buy snacks that were handed out to tsunami victims.

These efforts are not going unnoticed by the American public, and the Lincoln's captain made sure that his crew knows it.

"I received hundreds of e-mails from people . saying what great work that every one of you is doing," Capt. Kendall L. Card told his crew.

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