On 23 January 2010, I participated in a DOD Bloggers Roundtable with Captain Bruce Lindsey, USN, Commanding Officer of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70).
I asked him what advice would he give future carrier captains that find themselves responding to a natural disaster?
CAPT. LINDSEY: That’s a good question. And I think what you have to say is each one of these natural disasters is different. Although you can say that there is a humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and that is a core competency of the United States Navy, each one of these is slightly different.
In my mind, I’ve been thinking about that, and it seems to break down into two types. One would be the hurricane-type of relief that you’d have in Katrina. The other would be this earthquake relief that we’re doing down in Haiti.
So there’s a little bit of difference there. The infrastructure is broken in both of them, is damaged very heavily. But the injuries are so severe in an earthquake, whereas I think in the hurricanes you don’t have as many injuries in that regard — the damage done to the bones and the head trauma.
So there is a little bit of difference, and so I’d say to them that you need to think about that. But really, what we do is we rely on the ingenuity of the United States sailor.
Like I said, they created this water tree, and that came from the Lincoln carrier, when they were doing Banda Ache. They had created this, and so our sailors went online, found the lessons learned, and created another one, improved it, tweaked it a little bit so, as I said, we can put out a lot of water.
So I would say that you have to be flexible. You have to have — believe in your sailors, because they’re the ones that will have the solutions to the problems that you face immediately upon arrival.
I wore my navy history hat for my other question and asked Captain Lindsey, “can you tell us where the ship was when the earthquake hit and what would you like the historians to write about the Vinson’s role?”
CAPT. LINDSEY: We had just gotten under way for our first deployment after a little over four years in the shipyard, on a complex refueling/overhaul. Got under way on 12 January.
And within 12 hours, we got the order to head south towards Mayport and onload helicopters, maintenance personnel, and as much supply as possible, and get under way eight hours later — not pulling into Mayport, but continuing on to get down here as fast as possible.
As you are well aware, a nuclear aircraft carrier has speed as its advantage. And we used that advantage, going over 30 knots the entire time, to arrive off of Haiti on Friday in the early morning, and started conducting flight operations immediately.
So I think that that is one thing I think is important, to see that the speed and then the flexibility of how we tailored the flight deck to this mission.
Full transcript here.
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