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Following the 26 December 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. military responded quickly, sending ships, planes, and relief supplies to the region. Coordinated by Joint Task Force 536, established at Utapao, Thailand, the Navy and the Marine Corps shifted assets from the Navy's Pacific Command within days. The rapid response once again illustrated the flexibility of naval forces when forward deployed.
The Navy deployed four Patrol Squadron (VP) 4 P-3 Orion patrol aircraft from Kadena, Japan, to Utapao to fly reconnaissance flights in the region and five VP-8 P-3s began flying missions out of Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. The Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group [including Shoup (DDG 86), Shiloh (CG 67), Benfold (DDG 65) and USNS Ranier (T AOE 7)] and the Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Expeditionary Strike Group [including Duluth (LPD 6), Milius (DDG 69), Rushmore ('___' 47), Thach (FFG 43), Pasadena (SSN 752) and USCG Munro (WHEC 724)] steamed to Indonesia from the Pacific Ocean. Marine Corps disaster relief assessment teams from Okinawa, Japan, flew in to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and were later joined by U.S. Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Units from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Lastly, a total of eleven ships under the Military Sealift Command (MSC) proceeded to the region from Guam and Diego Garcia.
Nineteen SH-60 Seahawk helicopters from the ships of the Abraham Lincoln group began flying reconnaissance, evacuation, and relief sorties over Indonesia on 31 December. The Bonhomme Richard group arrived on 3 January and her embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) began using their 24 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters to deliver supplies to damaged areas along the coast of Indonesia.
In early January six ships from Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron 3 – MV lst Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), SS Maj. Stephen W. Pless (T-AK 3007), MV Cpl. Louis J. Hauge Jr. (T-AK 3000), MV Pfc. James Anderson Jr. (T-AK 3002), MV 1st Lt. Alex Bonnyman (T-AK 3002) and USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin (T-AK 3015) – got underway from Diego Garcia. Collectively, these ships carry enough equipment and supplies to support 15,000 Marines for 30 days, including road-building supplies, electrical power generators, and other emergency equipment. These ships’ water purification machines and evaporators are capable of producing more than 100,000 gallons of potable water per day and pumping it to shore from up to two miles away. In addition, the MSC fleet replenishment oilers USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO 194) as well as the combat stores ship USNS San Jose (T-ASF 7) joined Rainier in providing fuel and supplies to U.S. Navy ships in the tsunami relief area. Lastly, two MSC oceanographic ships have been ordered into the affected area to conduct hydrographic surveys of the ocean bottom where the 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred. USNS Mary Sears (T-AGS 65) and USNS John McDonnell (T-AGS 51) will sail from Sasebo, Japan, in mid-January. SOURCE