USS Carl Vinson Sailors Support Haiti Mission
By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2010 Sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson are playing a pivotal role in providing medical services and humanitarian support during Operation Unified Response in Haiti, the ship's commander said yesterday.
“The people that come on here have broken bones and wounds. You just can’t imagine it unless you are here looking at it the number of people injured,” U.S. Navy Capt. Bruce H. Lindsey, the ship’s commanding officer, told bloggers during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable. “As long as there are injured people needing our care, we will stay here as long as it takes.”
Before the USNS Comfort hospital ship arrived, the medical team of the USS Carl Vinson conducted initial triage of patients prior to providing life-saving medical and surgical services.
USS Carl Vinson also serves an alternative landing site when the Comfort’s landing spots are full. Patients with critical needs are brought to the Vinson to provide immediate assistance.
“We want to mitigate the suffering from the Haitian people from this earthquake, so we are spread out trying to help as many people as possible,” Lindsey said.
The Carl Vinson also boasts a variety of helicopters that include 19 CH-53s and SH-60s, that can be used for a variety of purposes from transporting cargo and supplies to picking up patients in small remote areas.
Lindsey described how a group in Michigan emailed the Carl Vinson and said they had been contacted by personnel on an island outside of Port-au-Prince that needed help. The Carl Vinson sent an aircraft to the island and found an area for the SH-60 to land. The helicopter transported three casualties from the island because they had the capability to land in such a small area.
“We are probably doing 180 to 240 landings a day off of this ship,” he said. “The sailors on the flight deck and in maintenance are doing the hard work, making sure they are getting into the country.”
One of the main things the ship transports is medical supplies. Another is water -- the ship has transported more than 30,000 gallons of water. A group of sailors on his ship also created a water tree, where they took piping and created spigots, and use the supply of water from the ship to fill containers with water for those in need in Haiti.
Lindsey said sailors volunteered their time to do build the water tree and fill 5 gallon jugs with water by hand. Because of their volunteer efforts each helicopter that leaves the ship has 32 of these jugs on flight.
Lindsey credits the success of the ship to the crew, including Creole speakers who he says have been “enormously helpful” when airlifting patients.
“Having someone speaking their own language has been critical to our success and has comforted patients,” he said.
“My sailors on board, every one of them wants to go ashore to help them. I have to tell them I would love for them to all go there, but I do need a few of them to stay back on the ship to continue the operations here,” he said. “It’s great to see such an outpouring of volunteerism from today’s sailor. America should be very proud of the sailors that they have. They’re great human beings.”
(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)