Washington October 15, 2009 - Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl delivered urgently needed supplies, equipment and fuel off the coast of Indonesia Oct. 10 - 14, in response to the deadly earthquakes that struck the region Sept. 30.
At the request of the government of Indonesia and the U.S. Department of State, the Navy - including MSC - joined other branches of the U.S. military, international relief organizations and Indonesia's military to deliver food, fresh water and medical supplies to remote mountain villages. The U.S. Air Force also established a field hospital which treated more than 2,000 patients.
Byrd and Diehl teamed up with amphibious dock landing ship USS Denver and destroyer USS McCampbell off the coast of Western Sumatra.
Byrd sailed from Guam, arriving off Padang, Indonesia, Oct. 10. In addition to providing supplies and fuel to both Denver and McCampbell, two of Byrd's embarked SA-330J Puma helicopters, which are operated by a private company under contract to MSC, made a total of 39 sorties, carrying 97 U.S., Indonesian and relief organization passengers to conduct airborne surveys of heavily damaged areas.
"The Puma surveys were critical for decision makers on the ground, so they could target the areas where supplies and assistance were needed most," said Byrd's civil service master Capt. Robert Jaeger.
Civil service mariners aboard Diehl delivered the more than 18,000 pounds of foreign-assistance cargo to Byrd Oct. 13, via underway replenishment. The humanitarian cargo, which was loaded in Singapore Oct. 8, included water containers, surgical gloves and masks, blankets, water purification tablets, collapsible water bladders, tarps to be used for shelter, insect repellant and sun screen. Byrd transferred the cargo to USS Denver, which later brought it to hard-hit areas ashore.
"MSC ships stand ready to support humanitarian operations wherever we are needed, and the cargo Diehl delivered could make a huge impact on the lives of those affected by this devastating earthquake," said Diehl's civil service master Capt. Lawrence Carley.
After delivering the humanitarian cargo to Byrd, Diehl provided aviation and diesel fuel to Denver and McCampbell before departing the area later the same day to returning to its regular mission of resupplying ships in 7th Fleet.
"It was heartbreaking to be witness to the complete devastation Mother Nature is capable of," said Byrd's civilian air detachment officer in charge Michael P. Melia, working under contract to MSC. "More than 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed in many of the villages we visited. Hopefully, the efforts of the U.S. Navy will help these unfortunate people start to get back on their feet and on with their lives."
Byrd's helicopters flew more than 8,000 pounds of relief supplies ashore, including food, water and tarps.
Like Diehl, after completing its support to the disaster relief efforts, Byrd returned to routine underway replenishment operations supporting U.S. 7th Fleet ships at sea.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.