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USS Essex Receives Deployment Order for Operation Unified Assistance

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050114-03
Release Date: 1/14/2005 10:46:00 AM

From USS Essex Public Affairs

PERSIAN GULF (NNS) -- After spending four months in the Persian Gulf, the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) received orders Jan. 10 to move to the Indonesia area to assist in humanitarian efforts. The Deployment Order tasks Essex with providing support and aid to the victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami as part of Operation Unified Assistance.

According to Essex' Commanding Officer, Capt. J. M. van Tol, the crew is looking forward to the new challenge.

"I expect that Essex will take her new mission in stride," he said. "It actually may be a welcome, if brief, change from the operations of the past several months. I hope we may do some useful work to help afflicted people in the region."

During the transit out of the Persian Gulf, Essex anchored out of Bahrain to pick up four MH-53E Sea Dragon heavy-lifting helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 "Blackhawks", aviation support gear, parts and stores to be used while supporting Operation Unified Assistance.

Essex Combat Cargo Officer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Carpenter, said that more than 200 pallets were brought over via helo, and eleven 20 foot-by-8 foot steel 'conex' boxes were loaded on Essex using a crane contracted out of Bahrain.

"It was an 18-hour evolution getting everything necessary on board, and the Essex crew did an incredible job in making it all happen," he said.

There are many advantages to moving the ship from the Gulf to Indonesia in support of the humanitarian relief efforts. Although Essex serves primarily as an amphibious assault ship, embarking more than 1,800 Marines, the ship's secondary mission is to provide high-level hospital care.

"Essex offers skilled medical care, water-generation capability, mobile helicopter basing, specialized skills, such as those of MRs (Machinery Repairmen) and HTs (Hull Technicians), and a large crew potentially available for various taskings," stated van Tol.

Essex is the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and is the flagship for the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, homeported out of Sasebo, Japan.

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