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American Forces Press Service

USS Pearl Harbor Picks Up Relief Supplies Bound for Pakistan

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, USN
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, Oct. 14, 2005 The USS Pearl Harbor made a brief port stop here today, where sailors loaded 13 pieces of heavy equipment bound for Pakistan.

The machinery will be used to assist the victims of the worst earthquake in that country's history.

Pearl Harbor, a Navy dock landing ship, usually transports Marines and their combat equipment to areas worldwide. The crew of about 425 is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the North Arabian Gulf as part of maritime security operations, and it received orders to change course to load dump trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, cargo trucks, a road grader, a forklift and a generator.

"It was overnight," said Cmdr. Jonathan Harnden, the ship's commanding officer. "They made the decision that they wanted to send this equipment late yesterday afternoon, and we were here first thing this morning."

A member of Expeditionary Strike Group 1, Pearl Harbor's posture in the region allowed the ship to respond so quickly, Harnden says.

Pakistan was the epicenter of a devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake Oct. 8 that left thousands dead and more than 1 million people homeless. For many residents of remote or mountainous regions in that country, food and medical attention has been limited or nonexistent, and entire villages are in ruins.

The United States will support Pakistani relief efforts with specific capabilities. U.S. forces, like Pearl Harbor, and other members of ESG 1 will act in a supporting role for this effort. Specifically, Rear Adm. Michael A. LeFever, commander of ESG 1, leads the Disaster Assistance Center in Islamabad, where U.S. military relief efforts are coordinated.

"I think it's important to help the people of Pakistan who we have a long, historic relationship with -- one that's drawn even closer with the war on terrorism," said Harnden, originally from Virginia Beach, Va. "We all witnessed the tragedy. We can see what's happening on the news. Our hearts go out to the people who were affected by this." Sailors aboard Pearl Harbor said they felt honored to join the relief effort.

"I feel like we're doing our part, helping them out," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Rodriguez, a damage controlman from Whittier, Calif. Another damage controlman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Sanchez from Fresno, Calif., said he would like to do more than just drop off the equipment.

"I feel great (about the delivery), but I would go to help out," he said.

Two Seabee battalions, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 stationed in Gulfport, Miss., and NMCB 3, based in Port Hueneme, Calif., are in Bahrain on a regularly scheduled deployment. Sailors from these battalions helped move the 13 pieces of heavy machinery from Naval Support Activity Bahrain and load it onto the ship. Because of the urgency of the mission, both battalions worked until the task was complete.

"This mission is unique in that two battalions are working together on the same project," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Tim Bray, an NMCB 3 construction electrician. "That actually doesn't happen very often." The Seabees also sent two of their own with the machinery to facilitate a smooth delivery.

"My role in this evolution is to be with the vehicles, making sure they're maintained and pretty much securing the travel," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Hansen, a sailor accompanying the shipment. Hansen, a construction mechanic from Great Falls, Mo., said humanitarian missions are not unusual in his rating, "I'm excited that Seabees are known for doing humanitarian jobs. I've been part of it a few times, and every time it's exciting to know that I'm doing something that really matters to somebody."

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson is assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.)

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