Bataan Crew Adds Language Skills, Medical Help in Haiti
By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2010 The crew of the USS Bataan is adding language capabilities and medical care for earthquake victims as part of Operation Unified Response Haiti.
“We are pleased to be able to exercise our medical capability in support of those who need it in Haiti,” Navy Capt. Samuel Charles Henry-Howard, commanding officer of the USS Bataan told bloggers and journalists yesterday during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.
The ship had returned Dec. 8 from a seven-month deployment to the Fifth and Sixth Fleets. “We had just finished leave … resting up from seven months of deploy[ment],” Howard said. “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 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,” he said.
Along with the medical capabilities the Bataan offers, Howard said 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 today, the Bataan has 22 patients aboard for medical care and is establishing a triage process ashore so they can bring aboard earthquake victims who need a certain level of care.
The patients on the ship vary in age from a newborn, whose cry was extremely gratifying to the crew, to a 70-year-old woman who is resting comfortably after being found buried under rubble, Howard said.
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,” he 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 is to provide aid in the best way possible.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit also is using the Bataan as its headquarters and is using the flight deck of the ship to support helicopter operations for a relief distribution center set up ashore.
“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 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.”
This is a personal mission for several crew members who are of Haitian descent, he added. 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 U.S. to join in the international effort to help Haiti,” Howard said. “This is the kind of thing that makes being in the Navy extremely rewarding.”
(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)