While People Died, FEMA Had A Ship on Station
While federal and state emergency planners scramble to get more military relief to Gulf Coast communities stricken by Hurricane Katrina, a massive naval goodwill station has been cruising offshore, underused and waiting for a larger role in the effort.
The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore.
The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents.
But now the Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty. A good share of its 1,200 sailors could also go ashore to help with the relief effort, but they haven't been asked. The Bataan has been in the stricken region the longest of any military unit, but federal authorities have yet to fully utilize the ship.
The role in the relief effort of the sizable medical staff on board the Bataan was not up to the Navy, but to FEMA officials directing the overall effort.
You know, sometimes its OK to ignore protocol.
The USS Bataan would have made a HUGE difference and could have saved hundreds of lives.
Let me quote from the Bataan's official web site:
The entire class of seven ships is being produced by Ingalls Shipbuilding division of Litton Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The mission of these ships is to enable the Navy/Marine Corps team to accomplish a seamless transition "...from the sea" to the land battle, primarily as the centerpiece of a Navy Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). A multimission ARG is fully capable of amphibious assault, advance force, and special purpose operations, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humanatarian missions.
For combat support, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humatarian missions, LHDs have hospital facilities second only to the Navy's HOSPITAL SHIPS, including six fully-equipped medical operating rooms, three dental rooms, and hospital facilities capable of caring for as many as 600 patients.
Six 12,000-pound capacity cargo elevators transport material and supplies from cargo holds throughout the ship to staging area for loading. Cargo to be loaded aboard waiting landing craft within the well deck is moved via a unique monorail system. This system consists of 2,900 feet of track in a six-track layout directly over the ship's vehicle storage area and well deck. Five 32-foot cargo monorail "trains", each with a capacity of 6,000 pounds, carry material at speeds up to 600 feet-per-minute (6.8 miles per hour) from the staging area to landing craft in the well deck.
The development of Air Cusion Landing Craft technology, as embodied in the LCAC, introduces high speed and long range capabilities into surface amphibious assault, significantly enhancing the match between the helicopter and surface borne assault. The LCAC is a high-speed, heavy-lift craft, capable of carrying a 60-ton cargo ship from ship-to-shore at speeds in excess of 30 knots. The new craft operates on a cushion of pressurized air and can deliver its cargo well ashore - unaffected by shallow obstacles and surf conditions. LCAC's can clean obstacles as high as four feet.
Crew : Ships Company 104 officers, 1,004 enlisted Marine Detachment: 1,894
The right ship, at the right time, in the right place, and it just sat off shore and did nothing.