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Essex Moves Nearly 170,000 Pounds of Relief Supplies for Operation Unified Assistance

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050121-14
Release Date: 1/22/2005 4:36:00 AM

From USS Essex Public Affairs

SABANG, Indonesia (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2) Sailors delivered nearly 170,000 pounds of relief supplies in Indonesia in support of Operation Unified Assistance Jan. 18-20.

Using MH-53E Sea Dragon and MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters, Sailors carried 169,485 pounds of food, water and tons of other supplies to various areas in the region.

Air Force C-130s landed at an air field on Sabang, Indonesia, an island north of Sumatra, fully loaded with Operation Unified Assistance relief supplies. Essex Sailors volunteered to move the tons of supplies from the large airplanes to the heavy-lifting helos - MH-53E Sea Dragons of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 Blackhawks and MH-60S Knighthawks from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 5 Knightriders.

Essex previously spent four months in the Persian Gulf, where temperatures ranged from the 60s during the day to the upper 40s at night. The Sailors going to Sabang had to adapt to the Indonesia heat and humidity. Essex medical staff volunteered to go ashore to help ensure everyone stayed hydrated, in addition to helping move the supplies.

"I felt good to be there." Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Shabonne K. Tripp said. "It was hard work hauling all the food, but it was a nice change of pace working with everyone. It was a very hot day, but nice. A really nice opportunity and I'm glad I was able to participate."

Working party participant Master-At-Arms 3rd Class Karen Hall said she was impressed with the cohesiveness all the groups showed in getting the work accomplished.

"I was grateful to be there and work with the various military forces and aid workers," said Hall. "We all worked together building a huge tent and distributed pallets of food and water to the helos, which would in turn take them to another area to be distributed."

Lt. Cmdr. John M. Daziens echoed the fact that outstanding teamwork was at the core of the success in moving so many pounds of relief items.

"The teamwork was incredible. [U.S.] Navy, Marine, Air Force and Indonesians...everyone was jumping in to lend a hand. The aircrews were amazing, flying, loading and unloading nonstop, packing their aircraft so full they could barely fly," Daziens said. "For the FDNF (Forward Deployed Naval Forces) ships, Indonesia is in our backyard. It felt good being back in our home waters, helping out our neighbors."

All Essex personnel who went to Sabang pitched in.

"Everyone was moving supplies - officers and enlisted," said Chief Cryptologic Technician Patrick M. Phillips. "It was one of the most physically demanding days I've had in my Navy career, but also one of the most rewarding because I knew we were there to help."

Essex is the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious assault ship out of Sasebo, Japan, and is the flagship for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 Amphibious Ready Group.

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