NORFOLK (NNS) -- Multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed support to Operation Unified Response and departed Haiti March 24 after 10 weeks on-station.
Bataan surged from her homeport of Norfolk, Va., just 48 hours after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, and arrived on-station off the coast of the island nation Jan. 18.
Within two days, 23 patients had been brought to the ship either by helicopter or landing craft air cushion (LCAC.)
Multipurpose amphibious assault ships like Bataan have a unique design: a 844-foot flight deck for air operations and a well deck to launch and recover amphibious craft. Those inherent capabilities - along with a medical facility second only to the Military Sealift Command hospital ships USNS Comfort and Mercy - made the platform ideal for the mission in Haiti.
"These ships are made to be flexible. As the mission evolved, our tasks changed frequently, but we were able to meet every requirement," said Capt. Steve Koehler, Bataan's commanding officer. "Add that to the work of a dedicated crew that never said no, and I was inspired every day we were on station."
Helicopters and LCACs operating from Bataan transported nearly 1,000 pallets of relief supplies, medically evacuated 97 patients to Bataan and provided transport for another 524 Haitian patients to and from USNS Comfort, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and hospitals throughout Port-au-Prince.
"The Sailors and Marines aboard Bataan gave unselfishly of themselves for more than two months, and made a life-changing impact on the people of Haiti," said Capt. Tom Negus, commander of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group.
"It's one thing to be told you're making a difference, it's another to look into the eyes of a life you've changed forever," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW) Huben Phillips, an independent duty corpsman who treated patients ashore by day and returned to Bataan to treat more patients at night.
Bataan collectively looked into those eyes when 8 lb., 3 oz. Theo Joe, a baby boy, was born healthy Jan. 30 in the ship's hospital. His mother had been medically evacuated to the ship by LCAC from Grand Goave.
The Bataan crew unofficially adopted the child's hometown, conducting 22 "Sailors Ashore Missions" (SAM), ultimately removing 150 tons of rubble, building 65 shelters for 130 families and distributing more than 500,000 meals.
"I was on the very first SAM, and I remember the streets being empty, and rubble and ruin everywhere," said Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Howard King, from Charleston, S.C. "By the last SAM, there was a huge difference; the streets were full of people, stores were open, and life was rejuvenated in Grand Goave."
The Navy and Marine team worked with various U.S. and partner government organizations, numerous independent aid organizations operating in the area, and local Haitian leaders delivering aid, and helping the communities prepare for long-term reconstruction.
The Department of the Navy has become increasingly involved with other U.S. government agencies and non-governmental organizations since it adopted a new Maritime Strategy in 2007 that elevated stability missions to the same priority as combat operations and committed itself to working more closely with its civilian partners.
For more news form USS Bataan visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5.