USS Lincoln begins relief

With the Everett-based aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln now in place off the coast of Sumatra, crew members are frantically organizing to help the hundreds of thousands of earthquake and tsunami survivors in Indonesia.

Helicopters from the Lincoln task force began ferrying relief supplies to the region late Friday, Navy spokesmen said.

“The support from everyone on board has been overwhelming,” said John O’Banion, the Lincoln’s command master chief. “We’ve had shipmates from the outset calling up ready to respond for any kind of help. We’ve even had some wanting to organize donation drives on board.”

The Lincoln is the largest warship in the world, with a crew of about 5,000. O’Banion said crew members are being given the chance to help in any way they can.

“We’re asking crew members to step forward with such skills as carpentry, plumbing, electrician, even foreign language capability,” he said. “If there is any possibility that we can put our people ashore to lend hands-on support in any type of needed reconstruction efforts, we want to be able to get as many of our crew with those needed skills where they will best be utilized.”

Hull Technician Chief James Cook said the carrier’s repair division is ready to go ashore.

“We’ve got the biggest bunch, about 20, that are ready to go,” he said. “We’ve got construction and masonry workers, welders, plumbers, and also three heavy equipment operators.

“We’ve also got technicians who can speak Tagalog, German, French, Spanish and Chinese. We’re ready to send teams in, and rotate them out.”

He said his division has been busy inventorying every supply item on the huge ship. “We’re more than willing to give our supplies up,” he said. “We’ll keep just what we need to see us home.”

The ship’s medical department also is preparing for the operation. “We’re ensuring that these folks are well prepared, their immunizations are up to date and they are protected against potential tropical diseases,” said Cmdr. Jamin McMahon of Gig Harbor.

Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Richard Dentler said the Lincoln has 12 officers, five chief petty officers and 36 enlisted people all trying to think outside the box about what the crew can do to assist the survivors.

“We are all pitching in and getting ideas from our experiences,” he said.

Dentler said the possibilities include bringing victims aboard for shelter and treatment, sending teams ashore to offer medical assistance, and helping to set up sanitation and disease control centers.

The Lincoln is accompanied by the Everett-based USS Shoup, the USS Benfold, the USS Shiloh and the USNS Rainier.

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