ABOARD USS KEARSARGE --
Dozens of volunteers from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) have been supporting disaster relief efforts in Bangladesh by filling hundreds of collapsible bags with fresh water for those affected by a Tropical Cyclone Sidr.
“It’s a blessing to help somebody else out and give back to someone in need,” said Sgt. Patrick L. Harper, of Augusta, Ga. “All the guys out here are here on a voluntary basis, none of them are forced to be out here. They’re doing this because they want to.”
The Marines arrived off the coast of Bangladesh Nov. 23 and delivered approximately 750 gals. of bottled water that day. Since then, Marines and Sailors have been hard at work, filling water containers for distribution by Marine heavy and medium lift helicopters to various locations in southern Bangladesh. Currently, more than 7,500 gals. of water have been distributed. The 22nd MEU (SOC) and Kearsarge have been providing humanitarian aid at the request of the Bangladeshi Government after Tropical Cyclone Sidr ripped through the country Nov. 15.
“They’re running off motivation,” said Harper, a motor transport mechanic with the MEU’s Command Element. “They’ve been putting in some late hours. The first night we worked from (10 p.m.) to (6 a.m.) and filled about 540 bags -- these guys must be working on motivation because they’ve been working hours, and hours, and hours of unpaid overtime,” said Harper.
The volunteers have filled countless bags, one by one, with what resembles a clear garden hose. The crew works together in the ship’s cavernous hangar deck to fill, cap, and heave the clear five gal. bags into pallet-based cardboard containers.
The crew of volunteers includes members from every element of the MEU, like Cpl. Jason W. Epps, an embark and logistics specialist with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 261 (Reinforced).
“It’s a pretty good time, it breaks up the monotony of the day,” said Epps, a St. Louis native. “Sometimes we’re out here until early in the morning; we’re working some good 16 hour days.”
The water comes from the ship’s supply tanks, said Epps. Kearsarge is capable of purifying 200,000 gallons of water daily.
“It’s the same water that we all drink here on ship,” said Epps, his wet clothing a direct reflection of his damp surroundings. “It’s good to know that I had a hand in helping out another country in need.”
At 9 p.m., a night crew augmented with Kearsarge Sailors took the helm of the operation. The day and night shifts compete to heighten the daily harvest. Today’s goal was 2,000. By 9 p.m., Marines and Sailors had filled over 1,200 bags.
“After seeing the tapes and a few of the pictures, I know this is making a difference,” said Harper. “I consider myself blessed, and if I can help somebody else out by doing something this simplistic, it’s good to me.”
The 22nd MEU (SOC) and Kearsarge have been providing humanitarian aid at the request of the Bangladeshi Government after Tropical Cyclone Sidr ripped through the country’s southern coast Nov. 15.
The 22nd MEU(SOC) consists of its Aviation Combat Element, HMM-261 (reinforced); Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.
Kearsarge left its home-port of Norfolk, Va. July 30 and is on a regularly scheduled deployment.
For more news, information and photos, visit the unit’s Web sites at www.22meu.usmc.mil and www.lhd3.navy.mil.