CANAL DU SUD, Haiti (NNS) -- USS Normandy (CG 60) and its embarked helicopter detachment completed relief operations off the coast of Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response Feb. 6.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command released Normandy of its responsibilities to the humanitarian efforts in Haiti, but a significant number of Navy ships remain in the area, including the USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USS Nassau (LHA 4) Amphibious Ready Groups, as well as Military Sealift Command, U.S. Maritime Administration and international maritime partner ships.
On station for a total of 21 days, Normandy and its crew delivered 125,000 meals of special dehydrated food mix donated by the non-for-profit organization "Kids Against Hunger, more than 1,000 gallons of water, plus other food items including peanut butter, bread and meals ready-to-eat, during a series of assessment and assistance visits to the towns on the Haitian island of La Gonave.
The ship's embarked helicopter detachment, Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 46 Detachment 3, which launched from Normandy daily, delivered 75,142 pounds of food and water, 3,000 pounds of medical supplies throughout the Port-au-Prince area, what was essentially the ground zero of the earthquake. The detachment also conducted medical evacuations of 107 injured Haitians to medical treatment facilities throughout the area.
"I'm very proud of the crew; they were very flexible from the get go, the way they adapted to the mission, and the way they gave their hearts to helping the people of Haiti," said Normandy Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey T. Griffin. "Much credit is also deserved by HSL 46 Det 3-the pilots, the air crewmen, the maintainers - for what they were able to do to help victims get vital necessities and transport them to the medical facilities that could help treat them."
Normandy received a 'no-notice' deployment order very early in the morning Jan. 13 at 2:30 a.m. and was underway 15 hours later. The ship embarked its helicopter detachment in Mayport, Fla., and continued at high speed to Haiti. Normandy arrived at Canal Du Sud, the main body of water bordering Haiti, the night of Jan. 16.
Throughout its efforts for Operation Unified Response, Normandy performed duties in air surveillance and managing the military data-link, as well as being a ready deck for incoming helicopters that needed fuel. Normandy began the assessment and assistance missions Jan. 23, about a week into operations, when it visited the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, which lies on the northwestern coast of Haiti's Southern claw. Normandy's other missions were on the island of La Gonave, to include Pointe a Perrot, Boden, Pointe des Latanier and Au Parc. Pointe des Latanier and Au Parc were revisited twice and Boden was visited three times.
"Just seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter, I knew we were making a difference," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Olin Bolden, from Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Bolden and his corpsman counterparts rendered medical assistance to the towns they visited and left basic medical supplies with designated medical professionals of the town. Those they treated "were extremely grateful," said Bolden.
The kids in each town took a special affection to Normandy Sailors. They liked holding the Sailors' hands and just interacting, even if no words were exchanged. Little games like tag were played with kids and there was a general sense of excitement and camaraderie.
For the adults and elders of the town, gratitude was a common theme among the places visited. Many of the towns the Sailors visited were not devastated by the earthquake, but were cut off from vital resources that would have came in from Port-au-Prince if not for the earthquake. Towns people that met the Navy Sailors on the beachhead were surprised and elated to see them, not expecting anyone would come to give them assistance.
"I think we were able to give them hope, to show them that someone cared," Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Maxy Baskin, a native of Haiti who moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., when he was six. Baskin provided the linguistic support to make each visit successful.
"If nothing else, we did it for the children, to see them smile. We know that the food we gave them won't last forever but it will at least give them a boost and allow them to hold on while the country continues to rebuild," said Baskin.
Each pilot and aircrewmen shared a similar sentiment, of being able to touch someone's life through their efforts. Those in the air medically transported a number of different people, from the elderly to babies, from burn victims to people that had broken bones, giving some that might otherwise have died a second chance.
The HSL 46 Det 3 aircrewmen, who are search and rescue swimmers by trade, live by the search and rescue motto: "These things we do so others may live."
"It feels good to know that you helped someone, that you played a role in helping someone live," Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Michael D. Hill, of Columbus, Ohio.
Normandy will return to Norfolk to continue preparations for a deployment this spring to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility.
For more news about relief efforts in Haiti, visit http://www.navy.mil/haiti/index.asp.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.