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USS Saipan to Make Brief Stop at Port of Pascagoula

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050125-06
Release Date: 1/25/2005 11:55:00 AM

From Naval Station Pascagoula Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) will stop briefly in Pascagoula, Jan. 25-26, to embark a detachment of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 in Gulfport, Miss., and approximately 1,200 tons of equipment and supplies, which will be used to support humanitarian assistance exercise New Horizons (NH) 2005 in Haiti.

Saipan is the lead ship in the Saipan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which departed Norfolk, Va., Jan. 19 for a two-month deployment to the Caribbean. The Saipan ESG is led by Capt. Chris Chace, and includes Saipan, USS Trenton (LPD 14), USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and an embarked helicopter detachment from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 6. In addition to supporting humanitarian efforts in the region, elements of the strike group will conduct maritime interdiction operations training aimed at enhancing U.S. counter-drug detection and monitoring capabilities in the Caribbean, and participate in multinational exercises with marine forces from Honduras and Columbia.

Saipan is the only ship in the strike group that will be pulling into the Port of Pascagoula. While Saipan is not unfamiliar in Pascagoula waters, because it was constructed at Ingalls Shipbuilding in the port's Pascagoula River Harbor, it will be the first Navy amphibious assault ship to dock in the Bayou Casotte Harbor.

Saipan's mission in support of NH Haiti is to deliver Seabees and their equipment to a remote area of Haiti where reconstruction assistance is badly needed. The joint task force conducting NH Haiti is led by Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Bratzler and will also include elements of the U.S. Army and National Guard. The executive planning agent for NH Haiti is Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO), headed by Rear Adm. Vinson E. Smith.

This exercise constitutes the first deployment of elements of an ESG to the Southern Command area of responsibility, and will provide opportunities for the United States to partner with its neighbors in bringing relief to hurricane-ravaged Haiti while also providing a considerable maritime presence in the Caribbean.

More than 50 Navy Seabees will embark, and as much as 1,200 tons of supplies will be loaded aboard Saipan in Pascagoula, all of which will support the rebuilding of schools and wells, as well as provide medical support to the victims of Hurricane Jeanne. During visits to different areas of the region, Sailors will participate in local community projects and make donations in support of the Navy's Project Handclasp, promoting cultural understanding and friendship between the United States and its neighbors.

Built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Saipan was commissioned Oct. 15, 1977. The ship is 820 feet long and displaces 40,000 tons. It has a cargo capacity of 167,000 cubic feet. Ship's company includes 65 officers and 1,009 enlisted crew members.

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