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Navy Wraps up Indonesia Relief Mission

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS091016-20
Release Date: 10/16/2009 3:07:00 PM

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ty Swartz, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PADANG, Indonesia (NNS) -- The Navy concluded humanitarian assistance efforts in Indonesia Oct. 16, by re-deploying military units that had been assigned to Amphibious Force, 7th Fleet.

The withdrawal comes after the departure of USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and the forward-deployed amphibious transport dock USS Denver (LPD 9) earlier this week.

"I couldn't be more proud of the efforts of everyone who helped out over here," said Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, Amphibious Force, 7th Fleet. "We've had countless people come up to us and thank us for everything we've done, and it is a direct reflection of the hard work and sacrifice of our Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen."

Service members from all branches worked side by side throughout the joint-service operation, successfully delivering more than 182 tons of food, water and medical supplies. Medical personnel also treated almost 2,000 patients at the Humanitarian Assistance Rapid Response Team (HARRT) field hospital.

"The operation went pretty smooth," said Cmdr. Fred Rischmiller, Indonesian Humanitiarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) chief of staff. "We had a combined team on the ground and that truly facilitated dialogue between the services."

Supplies were delivered from Ta Bing Airfield in Padang, where the 353rd Special Operations Group (SOG) established a command and control center to coordinate communications and logistics between five U.S. military centers of operation. Pallets were delivered with CH-53E Sea Stallion and SH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 265, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), as well as S-330J Super Puma helicopters assigned to USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Those operations were primarily conducted using visual flight rules, due to the extensive damage caused by the earthquakes.

"This mission presented a real challenge because we were looking at landing in some pretty tight locations, and many of the navigation aids were destroyed in the earthquake," said Marine Lt. Dustin Howe, a Sea Stallion pilot with HMM-265. "Great communication with the 353rd's combat controllers and some pretty good flying were huge factors in the success of our mission."
Most of members of the joint-service team brought experience from numerous previous humanitarian assistance missions.

"This is what we're trained to do," said Air Force Maj. John Traxler, 353rd SOG ground force commander. "We come into austere airfields, get established and get air operations going. It's a job that we're well-prepared to do and I feel everyone here did an outstanding job carrying out this mission."
For others however, the operation served as a learning experience.

"For me, basically, it's like being a college freshmen or an NBA rookie," said Airman First Class Robert Bell, a computer systems operator from Hinesville, Ga., assigned to the 353rd SOG. "Until you're put in the game, you don't really know what it's like. I've been waiting for my chance and finally got it. It feels really good to know that what we did out here made a difference."

Amphibious Force, 7th Fleet, coordinated U.S. Navy assistance to victims of the recent earthquakes in West Sumatra with the Indonesian government. The efforts were conducted at the request of the Indonesian government and underscore the ability of naval forces to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

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