ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At sea (NNS) -- In response to requests for assistance by governments in the region, U.S. 7th Fleet directed USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group to proceed from a recent port visit in Hong Kong to assist in humanitarian and disaster relief missions in the wake of recent multiple and devasting Indian Ocean tsunamis.
According to Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, commander, Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG), the call for ALCSG to respond came as no surprise, as they are a major force in the region and able to respond.
"This was a horrible event. A lot of human suffering is involved," said Crowder. "We've got the capability to go in to an area and provide some help."
Although exact plans as to where the strike group will go and what kind of assistance they will provide are still forthcoming, according to Crowder, ALCSG is the right force to have in the region at the right time.
"We have the ability to go anywhere in this area of responsibility on virtually no notice," he said. "This humanitarian aid mission is now our mission, and we have the capabilities to do it."
Crowder said that assets of ALCSG include the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, commanded by Capt. Lawrence Burt. According to Burt, CVW-2 has a lot to offer to humanitarian efforts.
"Our air wing is unique in that we have two helicopter squadrons deployed with us vice just one," Burt said. He added that, in addition to the 15 helicopters of embarked Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 2 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light Squadron (HSL) 47, several of the ships in the strike group also employ the helicopter squadrons giving ALCSG mobility access from more than one platform.
CVW-2 has two C-2 Greyhounds, also known as Carrier Onboard Delivery planes or CODs, which are capable of carrying several thousand pounds of cargo from the beach to the carrier for further distribution. The E-2C Hawkeye aircraft of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116 can provide search and rescue support, as can the F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets of the air wing, according to Burt.
"We have a lot of capabilities," said Crowder. He added the strike group, one of the first to surge deploy under the Navy's Fleet Response Plan (FRP), wouldn't be available to help if it hadn't been for the new methods of training and deployment used under FRP.
The inherent flexibility of naval forces allows us to drop what we're doing and respond to a higher priority mission, Crowder explained.
"Instead of coming out of Hong Kong the other day and turning north, we came out and turned south, and we're speeding now toward this area of suffering (to lend assistance)," he added. "It's that kind of flexibility that we bring to the force that allows us to do these sorts of things."
According to Crowder, these tragic events also bring out the best in ALCSG Sailors.
"We bring with us 6,500 men and women of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, and I know almost everyone is eager to roll their sleeves up if that's what it comes to and help their fellow man," he said
Even though they're heading south toward the affected region, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has yet to receive precise orders as to what assistance they will lend. Until the order is given, the men and women of the ships and air wing are doing all they can to be prepared to lend assistance in whatever manner possible."
For related news on Navy tsunami relief operations, visit the Focus on Tsunami Relief Operations page at www.navy.mil/local/tsunami.
For related news, visit the Pacific Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cpf.