ABOARD USS KEARSARGE --
On Nov. 15, Tropical Cyclone Sidr ripped across the coast of Bangladesh, killed over 3,000 people, left several hundred thousand people homeless, and ravaged the local crops and infrastructure. In response to the government of Bangladesh’s request for assistance, elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked aboard USS Kearsarge traveled approximately 3,500 statute miles from the Sea of Bengal and is now providing disaster relief to the region.
Friday, the MEU’s relief effort began with the delivery of 700 gallons of bottled water to the hands of Bengali soldiers aboard a small airfield in Barisal, Bangladesh.
“Today’s mission was essentially a humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mission to start providing the necessary materials needed for the Bengali people,” said Capt. Andrew M. Traynor, a CH-46E Sea Knight pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (reinforced), who flew in the day’s mission.
As the helicopters hovered over the airfield, Bengali children clad in colorful clothing watched and waved from a nearby roadside. Bengali soldiers lined the tarmac until Nix greeted them and led them back to the aircraft.
“We got out there and said, ‘hey, this is what we need’,” said Nix. “I think they were just hesitant to jump right in because they didn’t want to offend us.”
The wary stares of Bengali soldiers quickly evolved into friendly embraces as they crowded around the rear of the aircraft to shake hands and chat with their visitors. They were soon working with the Marines to unload the water.
“We worked together, and the language barrier wasn’t a problem,” said Traynor. “We all got in a daisy chain and the offload went very smoothly and quickly. It’s all about the team because that’s how we work.”
The crew chiefs did an excellent job by taking the lead and getting the water out of the aircraft, said Traynor.
“It was pretty cool,” said Sgt. Mickael S. Clemann, a CH-46 crew chief, and Brandon, Fla., native. “A lot of the Bengali soldiers smiled and showed what I’m guessing is their gesture of thank you, where they put their hand on their chest and bring it toward you.”
The sight of two militaries, unfamiliar with each other, coming together was one of the most impressive things Nix said he had ever seen, he said.
“It was good to see those guys with smiles on their faces, even though they’ve lost some of their countrymen,” said Nix. “It’s good to be able to help them out.”
The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element. For more news, information and photos about relief efforts, visit the unit’s Web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.