GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- Twenty-five USS Harry S. Truman's (CVN 75) volunteers began work rebuilding homes, in Gulfport, Miss., of the people devastated by Hurricane Katrina, March 6.
The Sailors arrived Saturday evening and had Sunday to get acquainted with the area and get some rest after such a long trip. Most Sailors spent the day touring Gulfport's beachfront and seeing firsthand the devastation.
"The area was completely wiped out," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 3rd Class Joshua Coral, one of Truman's 25 volunteers. "It was sobering to see so much damage."
On the evening of March 5 at Camp Hope, where the community relations are based, all the volunteers attended an orientation meeting where everyone was given a job assignment based on his or her level of experience. The job assignments included roofing work, internal and external repairs, and small tasks around base camp.
At 7 a.m. March 6, volunteers gathered in the main dining tent for breakfast, then loaded into the trucks, vans and whatever transportation was available and headed out to the job sites.
Truman's volunteers were split between four work sites all with specific work to be done.
"At our site we spackled a condo that had severe water damage from the hurricane," said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class(SW/AW) Dave Gayton. "The owner showed us picture of what her condo looked like right after the hurricane and it was just devastation. It was actually pretty remarkable too, considering her house was a mile away from the oceanfront."
The response from the citizens of Gulfport has been a positive one. Most people with work being done by Truman Sailors have also had repair work done by other volunteers from Camp Hope.
"There are no words to describe how delighted I am to have these guys here help me," said Pam Rowell, a Gulfport resident. "I had already given up and resigned myself to leave the first floor bare wall, but these guys are making something I thought was impossible, possible."
Sailors worked throughout the day doing as much as they could knowing they only had one week to get the work done. At the end of the workday, all the volunteers returned to base camp for some down time.
To close out the evening, the camp hosted a nightly dinner for all the volunteers and told them how thankful they are for all of them. After dinner, the volunteers help a planning meeting and mapped out a game plan for the next day, taking into account all the work they had accomplished that day.
The Truman volunteers will remain in Gulfport until March 12, when they will return to the ship, which is undergoing its dry-docked planned incremental availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.