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BHR, 15th MEU Provide 'Precision Assistance' in Sumatra

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050121-17
Release Date: 1/23/2005 11:33:00 AM

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

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At sea (NNS) -- The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (BHR) (LHD 6) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are delivering "precision assistance" to tsunami survivors in Sumatra.

Since arriving on station in early January, BHR has delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds of humanitarian supplies, including food and water, to survivors of the Dec. 26 tsunami that claimed more than 150,000 lives in South Asia.

According to BHR Commanding Officer Capt. J. Scott Jones, BHR and her embarked Sailors and Marines are using every asset at their disposal to determine where tsunami survivors are stranded and cut off from humanitarian aid. With this information, BHR's embarked helicopters are able to get the necessary aid to them.

"We take ashore what they need, when they need it," said Jones, a Leesburg, Fla., native who has commanded the San Diego-based ship since August 2004. "What we want to have is an orderly distribution of aid that goes ashore."

Jones added that in recent days, BHR has moved from the blanket approach of immediate relief to a more targeted approach that focuses on isolated pockets of survivors and distribution with the government of Indonesia. He also said coalition forces are helping the government of Indonesia reestablish infrastructure and critical civic functions.

"This proves not just the combat power, but also the humanitarian power of our ship," Jones said. "You just don't want to see these people suffer any more. That's what makes these missions so great. When we go ashore, it's all smiles."

Jones said the success of these humanitarian missions proves the versatility of the big deck amphibious ship. He said the ship's broad-shouldered approach to its mission comes from a simple guiding principle: use what you have to the fullest extent possible.

"We like to say, 'Si navis, magna!' which, loosely translated, means, 'If you're going to have ship, have a big ship.'"

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

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