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Commander Discusses the Role of USS Bataan in Humanitarian Efforts

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100121-09
Release Date: 1/21/2010 3:59:00 PM

By Christen N. McCluney, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- USS Bataan (LHD 5) is in Haiti as part of the Bataan Amphibious Relief Mission to participate in Operation Unified Response.

"We are pleased to be able to exercise our medical capability in support of those who need it in Haiti," Capt. Samuel Charles Henry-Howard, commanding officer of Bataan, told bloggers and journalists during a Jan. 20 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Prior to diverting to Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response, the ship returned from a seven-month deployment to 5th and 6th Fleet's Area of Responsibility Dec. 8.

"We had just finished leave … resting up from seven months of deploy[ment]," said Howard. "Late Tuesday evening, a decision was made for us to go to a 48-hour ready for sea, and by Wednesday morning we were directed to get underway 36 hours thereafter."

Howard said that his crew is prepared to stay for the foreseeable future.

"We'll be here for as long as we're directed and happy to do so," said Howard.

Along with the medical capabilities the Bataan offers, Howard added he has six French Creole speakers and nearly a dozen sailors who speak French who will assist when patients are brought aboard Bataan.

As of Jan. 21, the Bataan has 22 patients aboard the ship for medical care and is establishing a triage process ashore so that they can bring aboard earthquake victims that need a certain level of care.

The patients on the ship vary in age from a new born, whose cry was extremely gratifying to the crew, to a 70-year-old woman who is being treated and is resting comfortably after being found buried under rubble, said Howard.

The ship has been augmented with 78 additional personnel for medical services.

"We are currently getting them oriented, and they will join the medical capacity we have shortly," Howard said. "When all medical personnel arrive aboard the ship, we will have a team of 117 that will be able to fully operate four operating rooms."

Howard said the purpose of the ship's mission in Haiti is to get things to people the best way possible.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is also using the Bataan as its headquarters and uses the flight deck of the ship to support helicopter operations for an ashore relief distribution center.

"We are operating on flight deck 24 hours a day," Howard said. "All during the day we are flying and accepting all comers."

Howard said that he has prepared his crew to be in Haiti until directed otherwise.

"As more arms and legs are needed, we have an entire crew that is excited to help," said Howard.

He also said that, for some Sailors, the mission is personal. Several crew members are of Haitian descent, and they are continuing the mission in spite of losing family members and having a personal tie to Haiti.

"We are pleased to be the arms and legs of the United States to join in the international effort to help Haiti," said Howard. "This is the kind of thing that makes being in the Navy extremely rewarding."

For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.



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