Water, Supplies Delivered to Indonesian Refugee Camp, Hospital
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
MEULABOH, Indonesia, Jan. 14, 2005 Carried aboard an air-cushioned landing craft, a large amount of humanitarian assistance food, water and medical and engineering supplies - was delivered here today.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Romell Richardson, with the 15th
Marine Expeditionary Unit's Service Support Group 15 helps residents of
Meulaboh, Indonesia, look through a box of goods that was delivered to the
beach near the city Jan. 14. The 15th MEU is aboard the amphibious assault ship
USS Bonhomme Richard. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The delivery included "rice, lots of lumber, hand sanitizer (and) soap," said Marine 2nd Lt. Joseph Millsap of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The MEU is part of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group in the waters off the west coast of Indonesia. The strike group is here in support of the Combined Support Force's disaster relief operations.
The LCAC, as the landing craft is known, is an 80-foot, flat-bottomed aluminum hovercraft that "flies" across the water. It can hold 60 tons and can carry an M-1A1 Abrams tank. The assault craft unit that operates from the Bonhomme Richard, ACU 5, operates three LCACs, which usually are armed with two M-60 mounts for perimeter defense. "Most of the LCAC's tactical equipment has been removed for this mission," said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Robert Knoll of the 15th MEU. According to Millsap, this allows for delivery of 45 to 50 pallets of supplies from the Bonhomme Richard today.
The LCAC crew is responsible only for getting the goods to shore, though. Its members of the MEU Service Support Group who get them where they need to go after the "beach masters" do their thing.
Beach masters direct the LCACs onto the beach and are in charge of unloading the goods and equipment. Though the days are "long and hot," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Gradert, "it's nice to help to get material in here and put smiles on people's faces."
That is easier to do now than it was in the beginning, MSSG 15's commanding officer, Marine Lt. Col. Jay Hatton, said. A suspicion of the U.S. military slowed the process in the beginning. Part of the core MSSG 15 team that stays ashore in Meulaboh to coordinate efforts with the government, Hatton said building trust is key.
For Hatton, building that trust requires things like sitting through a two-hour meeting with an Indonesian colonel and his ministers. Hatton doesn't speak the language, but he patiently waited through the meeting so he could speak with the colonel for 10 minutes. He said the rapport he has built with the colonel has kept things running smoothly.
"I think it's that personal relationship that has helped overcome those initial suspicions," Hatton said.
That trust has helped get a lot of assistance to a lot of the residents of Meulaboh.
Today, three 500-gallon containers of water were delivered in the city of Meulaboh. Tant Kantor Bupati Posko I refugee camp received one tank to make up for a shortfall in a Jan. 13 delivery. The camp was to have received six of the tanks, but the MSSG had only five to give them. The Meulaboh hospital received the other two tanks delivered today.
As for the other supplies, the effort in distributing those was minimal. The people came to them. Around 2 p.m., residents of Meulaboh came, some from a great distance, to cart away 50-pound sacks of rice and liter bottles of water. They made quick work of the pallets of rice delivered to the beach.
And the task of getting these goods home may not have been so easy, but the smiles of gratitude were there.