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Kearsarge Conducts NEO Drill

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070530-17
Release Date: 5/30/2007 1:49:00 PM

From USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) drill with Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) on May 28 while underway off the coast of North Carolina.

A NEO is the safe evacuation of American civilians and embassy officials in the event an emergency situation arises in a foreign country. Kearsarge and the 22nd MEU conducted the drill to train personnel in case the need to conduct such an operation arises during their upcoming deployment.

The participants in the drill playing the part of evacuees arrived on board Kearsarge via landing craft air cushions (LCACs). Kearsarge’s hangar bay was divided into separate stations, such as personnel in-processing, supplies, medical and security. Supply personnel provided food and water while the Administrative Department created a database for all of the evacuees. Each evacuee filled out forms to account for themselves and their families.

Medical personnel were on hand to provide the evacuees with care and treatment if needed.

“When the NEO participants came on board, they went to the ship’s designated baggage area, and then they went to medical triage,” said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (FMF/SW) Tina Gallentine, the leading chief petty officer of Kearsarge’s Medical Department. “While the civilians were on board, the ship’s medical staff recorded basic medical information from them, such as what types of allergies they had.”

Kearsarge’s Command Chaplain Cmdr. Donald Fix, helped provide spiritual relief from a tense situation.

“We had three chaplains and four religious program specialists at three stations -- one at the baggage check station in the hangar bay, one to receive the personnel in the well deck, and one in flight deck triage,” said Fix. “[Our] main goal was to bring a calming effect to the oncoming civilians. Since some of them may have been saddened, fearful, stressed or had concerns, it was our job to help alleviate some of those stressors and make them feel more comfortable.”

In addition to helping the guests feel more comfortable in their surroundings, the chaplains wanted to set a friendly atmosphere for the embarked guests.

“We wanted them (civilians) to see someone who was a welcoming spirit and to provide a sense of hospitality,” added Fix. “Our secondary role was to sort out difficulties from agitated or angry civilians. If there was a situation to dispel, we wanted to bring the agitated person back down to a calmer state.”

Once the evacuees completed the check-in process, they were taken to an area to relax. They were also given something to eat and drink.

“We set up escorts and brought the civilians from the hangar bay to their sleeping areas,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class(SW/AW) Terrell Baker, Kearsarge’s Security Division leading petty officer. “The ship can be a hazardous place so we set up waiting areas for them. We also had the Ship’s Self Defense Force stationed at different routes throughout the ship to ensure people didn’t wander off without an escort.”

The Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) is currently participating in a Composite Training Unit Exercise in preparation for an upcoming regularly scheduled deployment.

The Kearsarge ESG consists of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, commanded by Capt. James Gregorski, elements of the 22nd MEU, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., the amphibious transport dock USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), the dock landing ship USS Ponce (LPD 15), the guided-missile frigate USS Carr (FFG 52), the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), the guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the nuclear fast-attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755).

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