GALVESTON, Texas (NNS) -- A detachment of Air Traffic Controllers from Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21 embarked USS Nassau (LHA 4) in support of relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.
The squadron, based out of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia Beach, Va., sent a detachment of 21 personnel to suport air operations as the need to land aircraft in unusual terrain became apparent.
Upon arrival of USS Nassau to waters off the southern Texas coast, TACRON 21 personnel established a Landing Zone (LZ) with advisory air traffic control service at Galveston's Ball High School and Galveston Scholes International Airport while the tower at that field was out of service. Establishment of those LZs enhanced the safety of operations of MH-53 helicopters and MH-60S helicopters just four days after the storm hit southern Texas.
Lt. Cmdr. Jason Arganbright, the officer-in-charge (OIC) of the two LZ teams assisting in the efforts, explained the need for such help when the relief headquarters was set up on the grounds of Ball High School.
"This landing zone was uncontrolled," said Arganbright. "We are here to ensure safety for those aircraft being used so they can safely take off and land in this unusual area."
First responders were on scene at the established relief headquarters, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.
Arganbright emphasized the need to protect the first responders.
"For the safety of those people giving help on the ground, we also are there to make sure they are safe as the helos are coming and going over their heads," he said.
Galveston's Ball High School is located centrally in the west side of Galveston Island, where Hurricane Ike caused the most damage. According to first-responder officials, as many as 10,000 people remained in the area as the hurricane made landfall.
There was so much debris caused by the storm as water surged 15 to 20 feet above sea level. Roads were closed, electricity and clean, potable water were lost. Transportation by air, such as a helicopter, became an ideal way to quickly gain access to the affected areas.
"We are a large portion of the air puzzle," he continued, "providing services of air planning all the way through execution afloat and ashore. Without our services, transport by air from the sea to this area would have assumed a higher risk."
USS Nassau and other military units are working together in support of civil authorities to help the recovery process in Galveston and other areas of Texas damaged in the wake of Hurricane Ike.
For more news from USS Nassau, visit www.navy.mil/local/lha4.