Received this today, but I think it was written about a week ago. It is written by the commanding officer of the USS Iwo Jima, a very large amphibious warship that usually embarks Marines and launches them to shore in helicopters and landing craft. This note tells us how they’re doing it a little different in New Orleans.
Thought you might be interested in a couple unfiltered spot reports from the front. USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7) is one of the “L” ships in the Gulf assisting Katrina rescue/recovery efforts. CAPT Rich Callas commanding.
Since I took over IWO JIMA over a year ago, I felt as though I had control of the destiny of the ship. I thought I lost it today, the first time ever, and that we were merely reacting to events rather than controlling them.
Within the first 24 hours after arriving pierside in New Orleans, IWO JIMA has become many things. We are one of the few full service airports in the area and have been operating aircraft on and off our deck for almost 15 hours each day. We are also one of the only air- conditioned facilities within a ten mile radius and though we have had problems making water from the polluted Mississippi, we are also the only hot shower within miles. All day long we have been accommodating local policemen, firemen, state troopers, national guard, 82nd Airborne division personnel with hot showers and hot food.
I met an ambulance team from Minnesota who just drove straight to New Orleans when they heard of the tragedy and have been supporting hospitals free of charge for the last week. They hadn’t had a hot meal in over a week and were grateful to have the opportunity to have lunch onboard. The Deputy Commander of the RI National Guard reported to me that he had guardsmen who were whipped, but after a hot shower and an IWO JIMA breakfast were ready to hit the patrols again. Rarely have I seen so many smiling, happy faces than on these people. After two weeks in the trenches sleeping on concrete floors, no shower, and eating MREs, good ship IWO JIMA has been a Godsend.