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Essex Practices for Evacuation Operations

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070228-03
Release Date: 2/28/2007 10:17:00 AM

From USS Essex Public Affairs

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2) conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) drill Feb. 14 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during the ship’s spring patrol.

Essex ran the drill as part of Evaluation Exercise (EVALEX) with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and other Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESXARG) ships.

Essex trains for NEOs to prepare to evacuate American personnel during a crisis or to support humanitarian assistance missions throughout Southeast Asia, Essex’s area of responsibility (AOR).

“We are always on call,” said Essex Executive Officer Capt. K. B. Canady. “We must be ready to evacuate American citizens throughout our AOR at any given time.”

All evacuees arrived on board Essex via landing craft air cushions (LCACs).

“For the NEO, we conduct well deck ops as quickly as possible so they [the evacuees] can travel to the designated areas located throughout the ship,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW) Alvin L. Weidetz.

Chief Master-at-Arms (SW/AW) Rudy T. Johnson lead the security station, the first area where the evacuees are processed and screened after arriving aboard Essex.

“The screening includes both a metal detector and physical search,” said Johnson. “It is a necessary precaution to ensure they have no dangerous material while on the ship.”

Essex’s medical staff participated in the EVALEX as well: working quickly to assess each patient’s health following the security screening.

“Medical provides as much support as possible to the evacuees,” said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW) Reynaldo V. Dinulong. “We perform a medical screening, assessing all their medical problems and give the necessary care and treatment.”

As evacuees in real situations arrive on Essex, Sailors from the operations department gather information to identify the evacuees and assist the U.S. Embassy in tracking the progress of the operation. These Sailors also gather information about the situation ashore that might assist in locating other Americans or possibly update security information for ground forces.

After the evacuees are processed, they are assigned to one of the ship’s berthing areas to relax and refresh while awaiting departure from Essex.

“We don’t know how long it has been since the evacuees were able to have proper hygiene or even eat, so we provide them with toiletries and food while on board,” said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Devon H. Knight.

All these various elements, were performed successfully during the NEO drill.

“[The NEO] was carried out very well,” added Canady. “A lot of preparation went into this exercise and it showed. We also learned some lessons. We will take these lessons learned and do even better next time.”

Essex is the only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and serves under Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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