Delivery Of Supplies Welcome In Indonesian City
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
MEULABOH, Indonesia, Jan. 14, 2005 Amid devastation unknown in recent history, survivors of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis have reason to smile.
Lt. Den Bekang Purwandi of the Indonesian military expresses
his confusion to Marine Lt. Col. Jay Hatton, commanding officer of the 15th
Marine Expeditionary Unit's Service Support Group 15. A delivery of five
containers had just been made to the Tant Kantor Bupati Posko I refugee camp in
Meubaloh, Indonesia, on Jan. 13. The explanation was simple: The original
delivery was one short of what was supposed to have been delivered. Photo by
Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The U.S. military is, in part, responsible for those smiles.
The beach area here is barely recognizable as the community it once was. Where houses once stood, survivors of the disaster poke through the rubble in search of anything salvageable.
"It's remarkable," said Marine Lt. Col. Jay Hatton, commander of Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 15. "I've never seen anything like this, and I've been to some pretty bad places."
Red and white flags mark spots where bodies are thought to still be buried or where bodies have been recovered. Most likely, it's the former, as the smell of decomposition is prevalent near those sites.
But even among such utter destruction are hints of humor. For example, at one turn it appears someone intended to leave his boat parked neatly at the curb.
The glimmers of hope already sparked were brightened today by members of the MSSG 15. Part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard trucked in three 500-gallon containers of water. One of those containers went to Tant Kantor Bupati Posko I refugee camp in Meulaboh.
The delivery caused a bit of confusion for Lt. Den Bekang Purwandi of the Indonesian army. He thought the delivery had been made on Jan. 13.
Lt. Col. Hatton explained through an interpreter that the delivery was a supplement to the previous delivery. The camp had received only five of the scheduled six water containers. Once explained, Lt. Purwandi was satisfied and watched as the container was put in place next to the others.
The backdrop of displaced tsunami victims also watched with mild curiosity. Water deliveries aren't as exciting as the times the troops hand out meals and snacks. On those days, large crowds gather around the vehicles, vying to get the prized bag of M&Ms or a Tootsie Roll, as they did today at the Meulaboh Hospital.
While the water containers were put in place, little hands reached up from the front row of spectators while bigger hands reached through the side rails of the truck.
Marine Sgt. Patrick Wright split up the contents of several meal packages, but not everyone got something. Marine Lance Cpl. Paul Bennett braved the crowd on the ground to make sure as many as possible got their share. The disappointment was audible as a low collective grumble rolled through the crowd upon learning that the rations were gone.
As the trucks rolled away, those who were able to grab a treat settled in to enjoy it. The rest of the crowd headed back to what they were doing before the servicemembers rolled in.
Navy Lt. Dan Grossman, the USS Bonhomme Richard's dentist, was on hand as part of a five-person team available to handle the dental issues of those in need. The team was getting ready to start its second day of mostly tooth extractions as the crowd was breaking up.
He said the first day had been busy, but successful. "I'm definitely going to leave here with a new appreciation for life," Grossman said.