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USS Pearl Harbor, Seabees Bringing Relief Equipment to Pakistan

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051014-06
Release Date: 10/14/2005 3:12:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) made a brief port stop in Bahrain Oct. 14, 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 dock landing ship, usually transports Marines and their combat equipment to areas worldwide. The crew of approximately 425 is on a regularly-scheduled deployment to the North Persian Gulf as part of maritime security operations (MSO), and it received orders to change course in order 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, Pearl Harbor commanding officer. “The decision was made late yesterday afternoon to send this equipment, and we were here first thing this morning.”

As member of Expeditionary Strike Group 1, Pearl Harbor’s posture in the region allowed the ship to respond quickly, Harnden said.

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

The United States will support Pakistani relief efforts with specific capabilities, and U.S. forces, like Pearl Harbor and other members of ESG 1, will act in a supporting role for this effort. Rear Adm. Michael Lefever, commander of ESG 1, leads the Disaster Assistance Center (DAC) 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 Damage Controlman 2nd Class Edward Rodriguez, from Whittier, Calif.

Damage Controlman 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.

Currently, two Seabee battalions, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 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 (NSA) Bahrain and load it onto the ship.

Because of the urgency of the mission, both battalions worked till the task was complete.

“This mission is unique in that two battalions are working together on the same project,” said Senior Chief Construction Electrician Tim Bray, of NMCB 3. “That actually doesn’t happen very often.”

The Seabees also sent two of their own members 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 Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Nathan Hansen, one of the Sailors accompanying the shipment. Hansen, 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.”

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