OFF THE COAST OF SUMATRA (NNS) -- Members of the Indonesian government flew aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Feb. 3 to personally thank Sailors for their role in providing humanitarian relief and assistance to the earthquake- and tsunami- stricken region of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.
U.S. Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, Indonesian Military commander, Gen. Endriartono Sutarto and Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Alwi Shihab, addressed Sailors on Abe's flight deck.
"It is with deep appreciation that I say to all of you, 'Thank you for a great job. Well done,'" Shihab said during the farewell ceremony. "I am pleased that the government of Indonesia no longer needs the full complement of forces that were originally deployed."
Upon arriving on station Jan. 1, Sailors from the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG) worked around the clock to deliver 5,711,866 pounds of relief supplies in just 33 days. Utilizing the 17 helicopters attached to ALCSG, Sailors flew 1,747 relief missions up and down the western coast of Sumatra. Pascoe thanked Abe Sailors for their hard work and dedication throughout the humanitarian mission.
"You all worked with members of the Indonesian government to save lives and give hope to desperate people," Pascoe said. "One of our biggest obstacles was how we would deliver fresh water to the people. In a truly heroic effort, your repair division made a water distribution device that in one hour could fill 750 five-gallon jugs. Your fast action providing this water saved thousands of lives, and your efforts made every difference in the world."
Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, ALCSG commander, said the volunteer spirit aboard the ship while stationed off the coast of Sumatra was hard to deny.
"I've got about 6,500 Sailors in the strike group," Crowder told reporters earlier in the month, "and as I was walking around the ship, they were tugging at my sleeves and saying, 'admiral, I want to volunteer to help.'"
The eagerness of Sailors to volunteer and help in any way they could shined throughout the their time in the area. In the 33 days Abe provided humanitarian assistance, 3,043 passengers were flown from the flight deck and taken to various villages. Sailors helped in many different realms, from loading helicopters with food, aiding injured victims and distilling water to take to the tsunami-stricken region.
"In a very short while, the United States military will have fulfilled its part in the overall relief effort," said Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, commander of Combined Support Force 536, the Operation Unified Assistance military task force.
Although Abe Sailors are leaving the area and heading home, U.S. involvement in the region is far from over. Lincoln's departure merely marks the transition from a relief-oriented mission to a reconstruction mission. USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived on station Feb. 3. Mercy, a hospital ship, contains 12-fully equipped operating rooms and a 1,000-bed hospital facility.
"The transition in relief efforts has been to capabilities such as the USNS Mercy and support for recovery and reconstruction," Blackman said.
Blackman reminded Lincoln Sailors that although they are now looking forward to getting home, they should remember the help that they provided in Sumatra would always be remembered.
"We, as military members, are representatives of the American people," Blackman said. "We represent the compassion and generosity of the American people and the people of many other countries around the world. We provided much-needed hope to people in despair."
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.