And it ain’t coming from the U.N. The Associated Press reports on the arrival of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the cost of Aceh, Indonesia:
From dawn until sunset on New Year’s Day, 12 Seahawk helicopters shuttled supplies and advance teams from offshore naval vessels while reconnaissance aircraft brought back stark images of wave-wrecked coastal landscapes and their hungry, traumatized inhabitants.
The helicopters took off from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, staged in calm waters about three miles off the Indonesian province of Aceh along with four other vessels to launch the sprawling U.S. military operation.
More than a dozen other ships were en route to southern Asian waters, with the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault vessel carrying Marines, headed for Sri Lanka, which along with Indonesia was the worst-hit area. The mission involves thousands of sailors and Marines, along with some 1,000 land-based troops.
Thailand’s Vietnam War-era air base of Utapao has become the airlift hub for the region. C-130 transport planes were already conducting sorties to Jakarta and the Sumatran cities of Medan and Banda Aceh, according to a statement Saturday by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.
U.S. Navy medical staff are also on the ground in Meulaboh, a decimated fishing village where several thousand bodies have been recovered. The Navy is considering a request from Jakarta to establish a field hospital there.
The Lincoln’s operations officer, Cmdr. Matthew J. Faletti, said the New Year’s Day effort off Sumatra was focused on ferrying emergency relief, including biscuits, energy drinks and instant noodles, to communities along the 120-mile stretch of seacoast south of the city of Banda Aceh.
U.S. military medical and damage assessment teams were also landed with helicopters flying in heavy winds, rain and low clouds. Supplies had to be dropped from craft hovering over some water-logged areas where landing proved impossible.
Officers said information was being gathered on how best American resources could be used including the skills of machinists, masons, carpenters, divers and general laborers among the more than 6,000 crew members on the giant carrier.
“Everyone is champing at the bit to go out and help,” said Vorce. “Today wasn’t about a paycheck.”
Memo to those who criticized President Bush for being too slow to “respond” to the humanitarian crisis by giving a press conference: a press conference is not a “response;” what the USS Abraham Lincoln and the Bonhomme Richard were ordered to do–that’s a response.