USS Bataan Ready To Help Gulf Coast
USS Bataan (LHD-5) is standing by to assist where needed along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to Second Fleet HQ:
"The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and other U.S. Navy assets are making preparations to provide assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, if needed. Bataan is currently underway in the Gulf of Mexico and standing by to provide assistance as needed in hurricane-affected areas.
"Based in Norfolk, Bataan is underway for previously scheduled operations, and will remain in the vicinity of impacted areas until otherwise directed. If called upon, Bataan brings unique humanitarian capabilities to the scene."
As you might remember, several Navy vessels, including the USS Bonhomme Richard and ESG-5 (home of deserter Pablo Paredes) provided vital assistance in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.
Occasionally, when a natural disaster hits somewhere where submarines are based, people will suggest using the submarine to generate electricity for the stricken area. I remember hearing about this actually happening once, in Hawaii (I think at Lanai, if I remember the submarine urban legend right). I also remember an idiotic suggestion during the first wave of rolling blackouts in SoCal back in 2000 or so that submarines be used to provide peak-hour supplemental electricity to the power grid; some congressman made an official inquiry, and Naval Reactors had to jump through hoops to explain how stupid it would be. (I can't find any good links, although this one mentions the plan in the comments.) Basically, if you got new heavy duty shore power cables, and defeated the reverse power interlock, a sub could provide enough electricity for maybe 500-1000 homes; not too much, and when you consider the costs of the fuel that would be burned providing it, and the human cost of having all the nukes go into shiftwork in port, it'd be the most expensive electricity in history.
Update 2255 29 Aug: And what was USS Bataan doing in the Gulf of Mexico? (I know I was wondering that myself.) It looks like they were returning from PANAMAX 2005, the multi-national exercise to practice defending the Panama Canal.
"The participating countries for this year’s PANAMAX included host nation Panama, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru and the United States, as well as observers from Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Mexico and Uruguay.
"With each country represented at the closing ceremony, remarks were given by the combined forces' commanders, as well as the combined task group commanders in the Pacific, Caribbean and coastal arenas. Each commander highlighted cooperative achievements, some of which were unprecedented.
“Twenty-four surface units deployed in support of the Panama Canal. [There were] 28 boardings in four days – 18 compliant, eight non-compliant, two opposed,” said Capt. David Costa, Combined Forces Maritime Component commander. “The multinational forces achieved complete Maritime Domain Awareness. Not a vessel got through us without being queried.”
"U.S. Navy ships parcipating in PANAMAX included USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51), USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 56), USS Devastator (MCM 9), USS Scout (MCM 6) and HSV Swift (HSV 2). They operated in the Caribbean and Pacific along with ships from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama and Peru."
Update 2113 30 Aug: Eagle1 has more on the Navy (and other military) response.
Update 1056 05 Sep: It looks like USS Bataan was being underused for the last week. I've got a feeling that FEMA could use some Navy liaison-type people.
Update 2231 05 Sep: The Navy responds:
"The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) completed its seventh day of Hurricane Katrina humanitarian relief efforts in the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast region Sept. 5.
"Four MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, based out of Corpus Christi, Texas, five MH-60 Seahawks from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, based out of Norfolk, Va., and Bataan’s air department have conducted flight operations almost around the clock to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts...
"... To date, the two squadrons have transported 1,613 displaced people and delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo.
"Bataan also provided 8,000 gallons of fresh drinking water to the ravished Gulfport, Miss., area. Sailors filled eight 500-gallon water bladders with the ship’s potable water and HM-15’s MH-53 helicopters transported them from Bataan to shore.
"The ship also demonstrated its sea power when a landing craft unit from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, based out of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., traveled up the Mississippi River to conduct a survey of the river just days after the hurricane ripped through the area. The LCU was gone for three days before returning to the ship’s welldeck."
Now granted, there isn't much to identify how many of the rescues and deliveries were done in the immediate aftermath of the storm, or if they were all done in the last couple of days. My guess is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of what the Tribune story reports and anything official the Navy puts out.
Update 0052 07 Sep: Here's the official photo gallery of the Navy's response to the crisis.
Update 1001 07 Sep: Power Line Blog has much more on the "controversy" over the utilization of USS Bataan, including quotes from ship's officers. Much more discussion over at The Q and O Blog.