NORFOLK (NNS) -- Nearly 1,100 Sailors and Marines attached to the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD5) returned to Norfolk April 3 following 10 weeks supporting Operation Unified Response in Haiti.
The ship surged from Norfolk Jan. 14, just 48 hours after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused severe damage to Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. The ship arrived off the coast Jan. 18, and immediately began providing disaster relief to the people of Haiti.
"I can't imagine a crew doing it any better," said Capt. Steve Koehler, Bataan's commanding officer. "We flexed the ship's capabilities at every opportunity and were fortune to witness first-hand the difference we made in the lives of the Haitian people."
A unique complement of Navy and Marine helicopters as well as air cushion landing craft (LCAC) 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 the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and hospitals throughout Port-au-Prince.
Bataan's medical team also provided triage services ashore for approximately 2,000 patients, delivered the ship's first baby, 8 pounds. 3 ounces Theo Joe, and in coordination with the U.S. Public Health Service, immunized nearly 10,000 as part of a preventive medicine campaign.
"Many of the patients that came to Bataan talked about how grateful they are for the U.S. Navy," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Stacie Coursey. "Being there, seeing the devastation, hearing their stories and knowing the help we brought will change their lives forever makes for an extremely humbling experience. I'm so proud to be a Sailor on board this ship and to have been part of such a historic mission."
Bataan operated primarily off the coast of Grand Goave, Haiti, and conducted "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 honored that I was given the chance to go to shore and help out first-hand with relief, said Air Traffic Controller 3rd Class (AW/SW) Jennifer Huber, a native of Floyds Knobs, Ind. "Everyone participated in any way they could. It was rough to go out and see the devastation, but it was also nice to see how the military and Haitians came together to start rebuilding their home."
Bataan eventually turned over their mission in Grand Goave, to Lifeline Christian Ministries, a non-governmental organization that had been assisting in the town prior to the earthquake. Throughout the relief effort, the Navy and Marine Corps team worked with various U.S. and partner government organizations, independent aid organizations and local Haitian leaders to deliver aid and allow the organizations to return to their pre-earthquake capacities.
"Turning over relief efforts to the United Nations, government of Haiti and non-governmental organizations was an important part of the mission," said Koehler. "Their continued efforts will ensure the people of Haiti recover from this tragedy."
Bataan is scheduled to begin a planned maintenance availability at Norfolk's British Defense, Security, and Aerospace Company (BAE) Shipyard in mid-April.
Bataan served as the flagship for the Bataan Amphibious Relief Mission/22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which consisted of Bataan and the MEU, the amphibious dock landing ships USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, HSC-26, HSC-9, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, ACU 4, Beachmaster Unit, Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 6 and Maritime Civil Affairs Team 207.
For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.