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HSL Detachment on Normandy Delivering Help and Hope

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100125-17
Release Date: 1/25/2010 4:02:00 PM

By Ensign Adam R. Cole, Normandy Public Affairs

CANAL du SUD, Haiti (NNS) -- Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 46 Detachment 3, embarked on USS Normandy (CG 60), completed its first week of humanitarian aid delivery and medical transport Jan. 24, as part of Operation Unified Response.

Since beginning humanitarian-focused missions on Jan. 18, HSL 46's Detachment 3 has completed a number of missions, ranging from troop transport to dropping off cases of water and meals ready to eat (MREs) to specified areas.

The Detachment has unloaded an estimated 650 cases of water, 1,000 cases of MREs, 33 medical evacuations, more than 100 personnel transfers, and more than 5,500 pounds of medical and military supplies as well.

"The hours are long and the flights are challenging, but it is great to be able to do this type of work—and see a direct impact," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Hansen, Detachment 3 officer-in-charge. "I use the saying, 'They come back with a dirty face and a big grin;' while the work is hard, they are glad to be working for such a worthy cause of helping the Haitian people."

HSL 46 Detachment 3 has been launching both of its helicopters from Normandy each day, landing into Port-au-Prince airport for supplies and then going to a number of distribution centers to deliver that aid. The landing areas that host their helicopters are often a field of grass or even a golf course.

Also among the missions, HSL 46 Detachment 3 has been bringing injured Haitians to medically capable facilities: triages on the ground, designated U.S. Navy assets, or outlying hospitals. Hansen said he was part of a mission that took him to a remote area, about 40 miles outside of the capital, picked up a sick infant, and then flew back to Port-au-Prince where she was taken by ground to a medical facility nearby.

In a mission on Jan. 22, two premature babies - brought forward by an aunt - were picked up and dropped off where they could be treated.

On Jan. 23, as part of assistance mission conducted by Normandy crew members in a village located in Haiti's southern portion, the detachment medically evacuated an 11-year-old girl with yellow fever and was deemed terminally ill by the independent duty corpsman.

The HSL 46 Detachment 3 saw people with many different needs, all requiring medical help and transportation to the treatment they needed.

"Helping the medical victims is especially touching," said Lt. David Hoopengardner, the Detachment's operations officer. "You know that they're in need and that without that transport, they may not have gotten help…so you realize the impact you're making."

The requests for help are made without much notice to the pilots—primarily once they get on scene—but they remain flexible and go wherever the need is.

"We just want to do as much as we can," Lt. Ken Barkovich. "When we show up [to Port-au-Prince], they direct us…could be food, could be water, could be people…we're glad to assist in whatever way is needed."

A crucial part of the Detachment's mission success is the maintenance team, working in shifts to ensure the helicopters are always ready to fly. The maintenance teams look at nearly every part of the helicopters and make sure everything is aligned and properly working.

"We just want to have a safe aircraft that is ready to support the mission," Aviation Electrician 1st Class (AW) Ihosvani Diaz, a native of Cuba. "We take pride in these helicopters…and know that they are being used for a lot of good."

Similarly, the ship's crew plays an integral supporting role. Dual helicopter operations (both helos are off the ship at once with only one place to land) is challenging, said Hansen, and requires great coordination for the flight deck crew and the entire ship.

HSL 46 Det 3 and Normandy are conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for Operation Unified Response under control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S.4th Fleet (NAVSO/C4F). NAVSO/C4F is directing all Naval assets and personnel in support of Joint Task Force Haiti, the joint command element directing U.S. military capabilities support to USAID and the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

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