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Lincoln Strike Group Winds Down Active Engagement in Operation Unified

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050208-01
Release Date: 2/8/2005 8:05:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class Michael Hart, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

OFF THE COAST OF SUMATRA (NNS) -- The USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG) changed the primary focus of its mission in Operation Unified Assistance (OUA) from getting supplies to critical areas to transferring responsibility to Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and the United Nations (U.N.) Jan. 29.

Lincoln, along with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, has been involved in Operation Unified Assistance since Jan. 1, airlifting supplies to areas unreachable by typical means of transportation because of the devastation left by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

"We're trying to move the work we've done to more of the NGO part of the house and get more U.N. participation," said Capt. Matt Klunder, CVW-2's deputy commander. "We have continued to fly missions. We are letting the Indonesian government tell us where the critical needs are, and then we move our assets there. We are slowly turning our participation of the emergency relief effort to more of a recovery and reconstruction effort for the Indonesian government and military, U.N. and NGOs."

According to Klunder, the ALCSG is cautious about turning over the mission; planners want to ensure that all vital information is properly passed down to the U.N. and NGOs.
"The people that have been here since the beginning have a good insight on where things need to go," said Klunder. "As new people come into the relief efforts, you have to make sure that knowledge is transferred. We're doing that, but it takes a little time, so were all coming together as a team to make sure none of that corporate knowledge is lost."

Abe's medical team ashore has experienced a change in their overall mission, as well.

"We've gone from moving and stabilizing patients to ensuring the safety of the crew," said Lt. Mark Banks, from Abe's medical department. "We, like everyone else, are narrowing down to a specific mission. Before, it was very broad. I think now we are in a recover and stabilization phase. We are trying to supplement the medicine they lost because of the tsunami and keeping people in their own villages instead of removing them. The locals are going back to their lives, and we're doing what we can to help them."

Not only has medical's mission changed, they're also making sure their turnover is complete.

"Our effort is to ensure that they can be self-sufficient. We don't want to leave a gap," said Banks. "This is a transition phase where you take what we've done and mold it into what we can accomplish now with their resources. We don't want to leave them lacking something that we provide solely, so we want to make sure there's enough resources in the area."

As of Jan. 28, Navy helicopters had flown 1,527 missions, dropped more than 4.8 million pounds of supplies to critical areas and transported 2,929 people in the area.

The locals greatly appreciated every bit of assistance they received from the U.S. Navy.

"Every single local Indonesian that we bump into here says thank you. They wave to us and smile, and are very happy to have us here," said Klunder. "The fact that the local populace has warmly embraced us and we feel that we have made a difference is one of the most important things."

ALCSG has delivered valuable medical supplies, food and water, and treated the wounded people of Indonesia. Not only have they distributed needed supplies to the hungry and helped heal the sick, they promoted the goodwill of the U.S. Navy and the American people, as well.

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