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Saipan Loads Seabees, Cargo Bound For Haiti

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050128-05
Release Date: 1/28/2005 12:54:00 PM

From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) departed Pascagoula, Miss., Jan. 26 after loading more than 50 Seabees and their 1,200 tons of construction equipment and supplies to transport them to Haiti in support of exercise New Horizons (NH) 2005 Haiti.

The Sailors will join other U.S. military forces to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to Haiti, including building three schoolhouses, drilling wells and providing free medical assistance in the hurricane-ravaged island.

"Although U.S. Navy amphibious ships have supported humanitarian missions in the past, it's almost unheard of for this type of ship to sail on a dedicated mission with the Seabees as the main effort," said Capt. Chris Chace, Saipan Expeditionary Strike Group commander.

"This event is unique in recent memory, and it has been an exciting challenge for the combat cargo personnel on my staff and in Saipan," said Chace. "Amphibious ships were designed to carry a 'landing force,' which is most associated with the Marines, but we have proven time and again that the versatility of these ships allows us to carry a variety of forces, be they special operations forces, the U.S. Army or, in this case, the U.S. Navy Seabees."

Saipan is transporting all the equipment and supplies needed to accomplish this mission.

"We loaded on just under 500 pieces of cargo and about 35 vehicles," said Marine Capt. Darren Demyer, Combat Cargo officer aboard Saipan.

Most of the onloaded material consisted of equipment and supplies needed by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 to perform their operation ashore.

"The cargo consists of water, Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), tents and construction material for the Seabees," Demyer said.

About 40 personnel helped load the cargo and vehicles over a period of 20 hours.

"We started at noon and ended at 3 a.m., then put in another five hours from 7 a.m. until noon," said Demyer.

Senior Chief Storekeeper Paul Rump supervised the movement and stowage of the equipment.

"We drove the forklifts, packed the loads, and put the cargo in the order combat cargo wanted it," he said. "We basically did whatever combat cargo needed us to do."

The task force conducting NH Haiti is led by Cmdr. Scott Hurst, from 22nd Naval Construction Regiment, and involves Seabees and Soldiers from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, Gulfport, Miss.; 400th Military Police Battalion, from Ft. Meade, Md.; 1-207th Aviation Battalion from Ft. Richardson, Alaska; 699th Engineer Company from Ft. Buchanan, Puerto Rico; and the 648th QM-TM from the Virgin Islands.

"This mission allows us to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance," said Hurst. "In addition, working with other services also develops our understanding of each other's capabilities and enhances our ability to operate jointly."

Haiti will be one of the six nations to benefit from the New Horizons program. NH is a Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed program sponsored by U.S. Southern Command. It involves the deployment of U.S. military personnel to South America and the Caribbean to conduct humanitarian and civil assistance missions.

The NH program started in the mid-1980s with the primary objective of providing joint readiness training for U.S. engineering and medical military units and their host nation counterparts, while fostering goodwill between the United States and its neighbors.

NH Haiti provides and excellent opportunity for U.S. forces to refine engineering and medical skills while helping to improve the quality of life for the people of Haiti.

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