GULF OF MEXICO – The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) completed its sixth day of Hurricane Katrina humanitarian relief efforts in the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast region on Sunday, September 4.
The ship is currently operating 45 miles south of Gulfport , Mississippi and was the first U.S. Navy warship on-station in the Gulf of Mexico . During the first two days of the relief efforts, Bataan steamed 100 miles south of New Orleans and since then she has steamed north to just off the Mississippi coast.
Four MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM 15), based out of Corpus Christi, Texas, five MH-60 Sea Hawks from Helicopter Sea Control Squadron Twenty-Eight (HSC 28), based out of Norfolk, Va., and Bataan's Air Department have conducted flight operations almost around the clock for six days to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
“We've been extremely busy this past week with more tasks than there are hours in a day,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Bocchicchio, Bataan 's Air Boss. “The shortest day the department has had was 16 hours long, but they understand that everything we do is critical to the mission.”
"All of the divisions and Combat Cargo working together allows the ship to have a 24-hour flight deck with the manning for 10-hour days,” said Bocchicchio. “Military units are the nation's biggest assets and what better use for them than to save our own people.”
To date, the two squadrons have transported 1,613 displaced people and delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo. Bataan also provided 8,000 gallons of fresh drinking water to the ravished Gulfport , Mississippi area. Sailors filled eight 500-gallon water bladders with the ship's potable water and HM 15's MH-53 helicopters transported them from the flight deck of Bataan to land.