GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- Twenty-five volunteer Sailors from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) arrived at Camp Hope, Miss., March 4 to lend their hand in the effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The volunteers, sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church of Gulfport, Miss., raised more than $5,000 in the two weeks prior to their departure to cover any additional travel expenses incurred during the span of the 10-day trip.
The Truman volunteers made the 15-hour journey from Norfolk, Va., with an overnight stay at Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base outside Atlanta for a good night's sleep before hitting the road again to finish their expedition to Camp Hope and start realizing their ambitious goals. Along the way, Sailors were tired and road weary, but maintained a positive attitude throughout the voyage.
"I had to get to know some of the Sailors really well," said Truman's Katrina Disaster Relief Team Leader, Lt. Steven Dean. "We talked a lot about what we wanted to do when we got there and that helped pass the time."
The team arrived late Saturday afternoon to the open arms of the two off-going groups of Camp Hope residents, a small group of volunteer military retirees from Florida and a handful of Canadian college students, and began settling in to their new surroundings.
"They gave us a warm welcome and filled us in on what was going on. They encouraged us to meet the people we were helping and see the devastation on the beach front," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 3rd Class Joshua Coral. "The facilities (at Camp Hope) are a lot nicer than I thought they would be. I think that boosted morale after such a long trip."
The Truman volunteers spent their first night at Camp Hope in bunkhouses built by previous volunteers and took Sunday to tour the area, spend time with local residents and attend church services, but welcomed a day to get their bearings after the long trip.
"I was thankful to get the day off until we took a trip to the coastline and saw all the houses demolished by the hurricane," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class Mike Cowan. "After that, I wanted to just find someone that was working on their home and do whatever I could to help them."
Team Truman has high expectations when it comes to their work at the camp and are hoping to make a big impact on the lives of Gulfport residents.
"We're going to be getting sweaty, muddy and maybe a little bloody, but we're going to get the job done," said Dean.
So far, the group is planning to work on drywall, roofing and cleanup of the area before returning home to shipboard life aboard Truman March 12. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is currently undergoing maintenance during its dry-docked planned incremental availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.