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Fw: Report from USS Abraham Lincoln in Indonesia

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  • Omega
    ... there in the first place. ... stingy ... News. ... one. ... -- No virus found in this outgoing message. WINFOS Global Solutions Checked by AVG
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2005
      >
      >
      > What's going on in Indonesia.
      >
      > By Ed Stanton
      >
      > It has been three weeks since my ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln,
      > arrived off the Sumatran coast to aid the hundreds of thousands of
      > victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami that ravaged their coastline. I'd like
      > to say that this has been a rewarding experience for us, but it has
      > not: Instead, it has been a frustrating and needlessly dangerous
      > exercise made even more difficult by the Indonesian government and a
      > traveling circus of so-called aid workers who have invaded our spaces.
      >
      > What really irritated me was a scene I witnessed in the Lincoln's
      > wardroom a few days ago. I went in for breakfast as I usually do,
      > expecting to see the usual crowd of ship's company officers in khakis
      > and air wing aviators in flight suits, drinking coffee and exchanging
      > rumors about when our ongoing humanitarian mission in Sumatra is going
      > to end.
      >
      > What I saw instead was a mob of civilians sitting around like they
      > owned the place. They wore various colored vests with logos on the
      > back including Save The Children, World Health Organization and the
      > dreaded baby blue vest of the United Nations. Mixed in with this
      > crowd were a bunch of reporters, cameramen and Indonesian military
      > officers in uniform. They all carried cameras, sunglasses and fanny
      > packs like tourists on their way to Disneyland.
      >
      > My warship had been transformed into a floating hotel for a bunch of
      > trifling do-gooders overnight.
      >
      > As I went through the breakfast line, I overheard one of the U.N.
      > strap-hangers, a longhaired guy with a beard, make a sarcastic
      > comment to one of our food servers. He said something along the
      > lines of "Nice china, really makes me feel special," in reference to
      > the fact that we were eating off of paper plates that day. It was all
      > I could do to keep from jerking him off his feet and choking him,
      > because I knew that the reason we were eating off paper plates was to
      > save dishwashing water so that we would have more water to send
      > ashore and save lives. That plus the fact that he had no business being
      there in the first place.
      >
      > My attitude towards these unwanted no-loads grew steadily worse that
      > day as I learned more from one of our junior officers who was
      > assigned to escort a group of them. It turns out that they had come
      > to Indonesia to "assess the damage" from the Dec. 26 tsunami.
      >
      > Well, they could have turned on any TV in the world and seen that the
      > damage was total devastation. When they got to Sumatra with no plan,
      > no logistics support and no five-star hotels to stay in, they threw
      > themselves on the mercy of the U.S. Navy, which, unfortunately, took
      > them in. I guess our senior brass was hoping for some good PR since
      > this was about the time that the U.N. was calling the United States
      "stingy"
      > with our relief donations.
      >
      > As a result of having to host these people, our severely over-tasked
      > SH-60 Seahawk helos, which were carrying tons of food and water every
      > day to the most inaccessible places in and around Banda Aceh, are now
      > used in great part to ferry these "relief workers" from place to place
      > every day and bring them back to their guest bedrooms on the Lincoln
      > at night. Despite their avowed dedication to helping the victims,
      > these relief workers will not spend the night in-country, and have
      > made us their guardians by default.
      >
      > When our wardroom treasurer approached the leader of the relief group
      > and asked him who was paying the mess bill for all the meals they ate,
      > the fellow replied, "We aren't paying, you can try to bill the U.N. if
      > you want to."
      >
      > In addition to the relief workers, we routinely get tasked with
      > hauling around reporters and various low-level "VIPs," which further
      > wastes valuable helo lift that could be used to carry supplies. We
      > had to dedicate two helos and a C-2 cargo plane for America-hater Dan
      > Rather and his entourage of door holders and briefcase carriers from CBS
      News.
      > Another camera crew was from MTV. I doubt if we'll get any good PR
      > from them, since the cable channel is banned in Muslim countries. We
      > also had to dedicate a helo and crew to fly around the vice mayor of
      > Phoenix, Ariz., one day. Everyone wants in on the action.
      >
      > As for the Indonesian officers, while their job is apparently to
      > encourage our leaving as soon as possible, all they seem to do in the
      > meantime is smoke cigarettes. They want our money and our help but
      > they don't want their population to see that Americans are doing far
      > more for them in two weeks than their own government has ever done or
      > will ever do for them.
      >
      > To add a kick in the face to the USA and the Lincoln, the Indonesian
      > government announced it would not allow us to use their airspace for
      > routine training and flight proficiency operations while we are saving
      > the lives of their people, some of whom are wearing Osama bin Ladin
      > T-shirts as they grab at our food and water. The ship has to steam out
      > into international waters to launch and recover jets, which makes our
      > helos have to fly longer distances and burn more fuel.
      >
      > What is even worse than trying to help people who totally reject
      > everything we stand for is that our combat readiness has suffered for it.
      >
      > An aircraft carrier is an instrument of national policy and the big
      > stick she carries is her air wing. An air wing has a set of very
      > demanding skills and they are highly perishable. We train hard every
      > day at sea to conduct actual air strikes, air defense, maritime
      > surveillance, close air support and many other missions - not to
      > mention taking off and landing on a ship at sea.
      >
      > Our safety regulations state that if a pilot does not get a night
      > carrier landing every seven days, he has to be re-qualified to land on
      > the ship. Today we have pilots who have now been over 25 days without
      > a trap due to being unable to use Indonesian airspace to train.
      > Normally it is when we are at sea that our readiness is at its very
      > peak. Thanks to the Indonesian government, we have to waive our own
      > safety rules just to get our pilots off the deck.
      >
      > In other words, the longer we stay here helping these people, the
      > more dangerous it gets for us to operate. We have already lost one
      > helicopter, which crashed in Banda Aceh while taking sailors ashore to
      > unload supplies from the C-130s. There were no relief workers on that
      one.
      > I'm all for helping the less fortunate, but it is time to give this
      > mission to somebody other than the U.S. Navy. Our ship was supposed to
      > be home on Feb. 3 and now we have no idea how long we will be here.
      > American taxpayers are spending millions per day to keep this ship at
      > sea and getting no training value out of it. As a result, we will come
      > home in a lower state of readiness than when we left due to the lack
      > of flying while supporting the tsunami relief effort.
      >
      > I hope we get some good PR in the Muslim world out of it. After all,
      > this is Americans saving the lives of Muslims. I have my doubts.
      >
      > Ed Stanton is the pen name of a career U.S. Navy officer currently
      > serving with the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group.
      >

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