Some interesting insights from the Tsunami Relief front lines -
from our Navy guys who are doing some of the tough work
No Relief in Sight for the Lincoln
By Ed Stanton
Soldiers For The Truth - Defense Watch
It has been three weeks since my ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln, arrived off the Sumatran coast to aid the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Dec.
26 tsunami that ravaged their coastline. I’d like to say that this has been a rewarding experience for us, but it has not: Instead, it has been a
frustrating and needlessly dangerous exercise made even more difficult by the Indonesian government and a traveling circus of so-called aid workers
who have invaded our spaces.
What really irritated me was a scene I witnessed in the Lincoln’s wardroom a few days ago.... What I saw instead was a mob of civilians sitting
around like they owned the place. They wore various colored vests with logos on the back including Save The Children, World Health Organization and
the dreaded baby blue vest of the United Nations. Mixed in with this crowd were a bunch of reporters, cameramen and Indonesian military officers in
uniform. They all carried cameras, sunglasses and fanny packs like tourists on their way to Disneyland.
As I went through the breakfast line, I overheard one of the U.N. strap-hangers, a longhaired guy with a beard, make a sarcastic comment to one of our
food servers. He said something along the lines of “Nice china, really makes me feel special,” in reference to the fact that we were eating off
of paper plates that day. It was all I could do to keep from jerking him off his feet and choking him, because I knew that the reason we were eating
off paper plates was to save dishwashing water so that we would have more water to send ashore and save lives. That plus the fact that he had no
business being there in the first place.
As a result of having to host these people, our severely over-tasked SH-60 Seahawk helos, which were carrying tons of food and water every day to the
most inaccessible places in and around Banda Aceh, are now used in great part to ferry these “relief workers” from place to place every day and
bring them back to their guest bedrooms on the Lincoln at night. Despite their avowed dedication to helping the victims, these relief workers will
not spend the night in-country, and have made us their guardians by default.
When our wardroom treasurer approached the leader of the relief group and asked him who was paying the mess bill for all the meals they ate, the
fellow replied, “We aren’t paying, you can try to bill the U.N. if you want to.”
In addition to the relief workers, we routinely get tasked with hauling around reporters and various low-level “VIPs,” which further wastes
valuable helo lift that could be used to carry supplies. We had to dedicate two helos and a C-2 cargo plane for Dan Rather and his entourage of door
holders and briefcase carriers from CBS News. Another camera crew was from MTV.
As for the Indonesian officers, while their job is apparently to encourage our leaving as soon as possible, all they seem to do in the meantime is
smoke cigarettes. They want our money and our help but they don’t want their population to see that Americans are doing far more for them in two
weeks than their own government has ever done or will ever do for them.
To add a kick in the face to the USA and the Lincoln, the Indonesian government announced it would not allow us to use their airspace for routine
training and flight proficiency operations while we are saving the lives of their people, some of whom are wearing Osama bin Ladin T-shirts as they
grab at our food and water. The ship has to steam out into international waters to launch and recover jets, which makes our helos have to fly longer
distances and burn more fuel.
Ed Stanton is the pen name of a career U.S. Navy officer currently serving with the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group.
[edit on 1/21/2005 by FlyersFan]