Thirteen International Defense Attachés from six countries met with senior officers from the Kearsarge Strike Group, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Task Force 76 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Nov. 29.
The meeting was held to familiarize the Defense Attachés with the unique capabilities that Kearsarge brings to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief efforts.
“Currently we are providing air and sealift capabilities to distribute much needed relief supplies, water and medical care to those in need and to mitigate human suffering,” said Capt. James Gregorski, Commanding Officer, USS Kearsarge. “As a sea-based platform, we are uniquely positioned to deliver relief supplies ashore by air and sea in a way that effectively and uniquely supports the Bangladeshi government’s efforts. Operating from the sea provides us the flexibility to maneuver, does not stress current infrastructure with a large footprint ashore, and gives maximum opportunity to deliver relief ashore.”
The Defense Attachés included senior officers from Bangladesh, India, China, Turkey, Great Britain and Russia.
Senior officers from the Kearsarge Strike Group, 22nd MEU and Task Force 76 have been working closely with the Bangladesh government and military to identify sites that are the most in need of assistance. Initially, the Bangladeshi government focused on five specific sites in the South, but Kearsarge has expanded its efforts to support twenty sites. All sites were identified by the government and military of Bangladesh.
“Interagency cooperation is vital to ensuring the maritime strategy is effectively implemented, as well as U.S. policy in general,” said Cmdr. Peter Pagano, USS Kearsarge’s Executive Officer. “Kearsarge is here to support the government of Bangladesh. We are here as a resource of the U.S. Agency for International Development at providing much needed relief supplies, water and medical care to those in need.”
Kearsarge has transported more than 12,359 gallons of water and more than 36,367 pounds of medical supplies, blankets and food. The delivery of humanitarian aid in an expeditious manner is a result of the embarked 22nd MEU (SOC) CH-46 “Sea Knight” and CH-53 “Super Stallion” heavy-lift helicopters, both of which can carry large load capacities. Landing craft-air cushions (LCACs) from the embarked Assault Craft Unit 4 can depart the ship’s well deck and carry vehicles and large quantities of humanitarian aid ashore.
“Sea-based operations are naturally complex,” said Gregorski. “In order to do them effectively it requires proper planning. We did a lot of work to prepare on our transit here and we were able to begin water deliveries to those places that had a pressing and immediate need as identified by the Bangladeshi government on our first day on station. We also have the need to execute safely, which requires evaluation of landing zones to ensure our aircraft can continue to support the mission. The bottom line is that we have avoided potential issues by properly planning ahead of time.”
Additionally, Kearsarge sent a medical team ashore to provide acute medical care, such as treatment for infection and broken bones, to Bangladeshis in areas where medical treatment is not easily accessible.
“We will continue to work in coordination with the host nation, other nations and non-governmental organizations to provide relief to the Bangladeshi people as requested by the Bangladesh government,” said Gregorski. “Our sole concern is to facilitate disaster relief operations to rapidly mitigate human suffering.”
Kearsarge and the embarked 22nd MEU (SOC) are conducting Humanitarian Assistance/ Disaster Relief efforts in response to the government of Bangladesh’s request for assistance after Tropical Cyclone Sidr struck their Southern coast Nov. 15. The storm killed over 3,000 people and has left several hundred thousand homeless. The Department of Defense effort is part of a larger United States response coordinated by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.
Kearsarge reported for duty to assist in Bangladeshi humanitarian relief efforts on Thanksgiving Day and immediately began to transfer containers of water ashore.
Kearsarge is the flagship of the Kearsarge Strike Group, on a regularly scheduled deployment and departed its home port of Norfolk, Va., July 30.