Monday, May 12, 2008

Marines, Sailors Prepare for Possible Operations in Burma

Marines and Sailors with the Essex Amphibious Readiness Group are preparing for possible humanitarian assistance operations to aid cyclone-stricken Burma.

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group, along with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is steaming to support potential humanitarian-assistance operations in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma May 1 and 2. Some estimates have put the death toll at more than 100,000. So far, the Burmese military government has allowed only one U.S. shipment of relief supplies.

"This is what we are here for," Navy Chief Petty Officer Andres Carillo, of the USS Essex, said. "It's our mission to help those in need."

The amphibious readiness group includes the forward-deployed amphibious ships USS Essex, USS Juneau, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Mustin. The servicemembers are working to fill more than 14,000 5-gallon plastic water bladders with fresh water. In the event of humanitarian operations, the water could be loaded onto landing craft and helicopters to be distributed to those affected by the cyclone.

"We are capitalizing on the excess water the ship has to support the victims who need it," said Marine Capt. Ray Howard, embark officer for 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. "We want to be able have the water distributed by the quickest means possible and be on call for help so that when within reach we can send the water via helicopter and boat to the disaster areas."

The process of filling up the bladders requires a great deal of manpower and hard work, Carillo said.

Marines and sailors set up shop before filling the water bladders. The Essex's Repair Division manufactured a fresh water distribution system that mirrored a miniature farming irrigation system. Afterward, both Marines and sailors prepared large boxes to store the water bladders for transport. During the filling process, they check the pipes of the water distribution system to ensure no leakage occurs.

After each bag is filled, Marines and sailors pack the clear plastic water bladders into the boxes.

"It's great to see the Marines and sailors working together to accomplish the mission," Howard said. "It's a great show of joint-service camaraderie."

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