ABOARD USS KEARSARGE (NNS) -- Marine helicopters from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (SOC) delivered more than 2,500 gallons of water Nov. 27 along with 12,000 lbs., of medical supplies to areas in Bangladesh hardest hit by Tropical Cyclone Sidr, a storm that ripped through the country Nov. 15.
The Marines made an initial delivery of water on Nov. 23, marking the first delivery of U.S. military aid to the storm-battered nation. USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the 22nd MEU (SOC) have contributed to planning efforts with the Bangladeshi Government and military, relief agencies and other U.S. military and U.S. State Department representatives. Kearsarge and the MEU are now ramping up distribution operations with the added capabilities of the embarked helicopters.
A majority of the water delivered Nov. 27 was produced aboard Kearsarge, which has the capability to produce 200,000 gallons of fresh water daily. Five-gallon collapsible bags were filled with the water, placed on pallets and loaded into the aircraft for distribution.
"We've coordinated within the combined U.S. and Bangladeshi civil-military construct to ensure that we are getting water and supplies to the people who need it the most," said Col. Doug Stilwell, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU (SOC). "We have now moved into a more robust phase of operations."
The Marines also used their long-range CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to pick up a World Health Organization medical kit, food, bottled water and 18 U.S. military medical personnel from Dhaka, the nation's capitol. The supplies and medical personnel were delivered to Patuakhali, Bangladesh.
"Today, we moved close to 12,000 lbs. of medical supplies, food and water to a local hospital in the southern region of Bangladesh," said Cpl. Gary E. Straws, a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 CH-53E Super Stallion flight line mechanic. "Helping people out is one of our callings for this mission that we're a part of, and I love what I do."
Stilwell noted that Marines and Sailors worked through the night to ensure water containers were filled and ready to load on the aircraft for an early start, and that all hands have been working together to make relief operations a success.
"I couldn't be more proud of how the Marines and Sailors of the MEU and Kearsarge have pulled together to support this operation," said Stilwell. "Morale is high, and we are focused on helping as many of the citizens of Bangladesh as we possibly can."
The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22. Elements of the unit remain afloat on USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and USS Ponce (LPD 15) in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. The unit is on a scheduled six-month deployment.
For more news from USS Kearsarge, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.