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U.S. 5th Fleet Ship, Aircraft Deploy for Tsunami Relief

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050114-02
Release Date: 1/14/2005 10:45:00 AM

From Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters assigned to the "Blackhawks" of Helicopter Mine-Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 departed Bahrain Jan. 10 aboard USS Essex (LHD 2) to support disaster relief operations in the Tsunami-damaged areas of Asia.

The HM-15 detachment, currently based in Bahrain, will provide heavy-lift capability aboard Essex to carry more than 50 personnel and up to 16 tons of cargo. The detachment is capable of operating aboard aircraft carriers and other warships.

"Helicopters are helpful because they can land on any open area, and most of the infrastructure has been pretty much destroyed," said Capt. Mark Donahue, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 (PHIBRON 11).

Essex, a Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship, can accommodate a variety of beach landing craft, aircraft, Sailors and more than 1,800 Marines. Essex is also capable of providing high-level hospital care.

"The LHD class has the most capable medical facility of any combatant ship in the Navy," said Donahue. "We have a fleet surgical team embarked. We have a whole lot of medical capability to contribute to the relief efforts."

Essex has been operating in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since June 30, as the flagship for Commander, PHIBRON 11.

Essex is based out of Sasebo, Japan, with USS Juneau (LPD 10) and USS Harper's Ferry (LSD 49).

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