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Bonhomme Richard, 15th MEU Delivers 98,000 Pounds of Assistance to Tsunami Victims

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050114-01
Release Date: 1/14/2005 8:34:00 PM

By Chief Journalist Walter T. Ham IV, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- Flying numerous sorties into the tsunami stricken island of Sumatra Jan. 13, the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (BHR) (LHD 6) and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) delivered more than 98,000 pounds of disaster relief aid to hard hit areas throughout the island.

Bonhomme Richard is deployed to the Indian Ocean to assist in Operation Unified Assistance, providing humanitarian relief to victims of the tsunami that ravaged Southern Asia Dec. 26.

"We were able to cover a wide expanse of area both coastal and deep inland," said BHR Commanding Officer Capt. J. Scott Jones. "Using the ship's helicopter capability, we have not only been able to deliver disaster relief ashore, but we have also been able resupply ourselves and shuttle experienced disaster relief elements to areas in the country where they are needed the most."

According to Jones, the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is working in conjunction with the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group as an Expeditionary Strike Force (ESF), with the sole focus of bringing aid to the people of this devastated region.

"While not fully established as a ESF, we are jointly using the functionality of all the assets between us to the maximum extent," Jones said. "The ability of both the large deck platforms to maintain effective area situational awareness with their command and control capabilities has proven invaluable in orchestrating the extremely high number of missions and coordinating the wide-range of developing situations that occur daily."

"This allows us to be extremely responsive to the needs of the victims of one of the world's worst natural disasters," said Jones.

Jones said BHR and 15th MEU also sent in a team of dentists and dental technicians to open a temporary dental clinic in the coastal city of Meulaboh, where no dental care had existed after the tsunami.

"They are seeing some patients that quite literally had not had dental care in their lifetime," said Jones. "And these patients are very happy to see them."

The BHR and 15th MEU Meulaboh branch dental clinic is expected to remain open as long as the San Diego-based ship is in the area.

Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of Expeditionary Strike Group 5, conducting humanitarian relief operations off the coast of Sumatra.

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