News From Fort Schuyler
January 19, 2010 - Volume 10, No. 2
Now bound for Haiti on one of the Miliary Sealift Command ships USNS SACAGAWEA in Operation Unified Response are Master GEORGE McCARTHY '80, WILLIAM WALKUP '06 3A/E, MAHA AIAD '06 3/M, BILL MASLOW '96 3/M and SEAN McCARTHY '99 Supervisor in Secure Communications - the author of the following long note: The ship is due to arrive in Port-Au-Prince today.
"So someone tells you your holiday weekend is cancelled and plan to be gone for a month or two - what do you pack?
Aboard USNS SACAGAWEA we were out in the deepwater letting US Navy helicopters practice their night landing skills when the Island nation of Haiti took a good shaking. We were supposed to be headed into port for about two months to get a few things fixed and load ammunition for our next assignment in the Persian Gulf.
Instead this guy POTUS (President of the United States) calls and says that's all going to change. All you warships get underway and go save the people of Haiti he says. The Hospital Ship Comfort was activated and gee we got this supply ship that isn't loaded with ammunition we'll send them along to be the Medicine Chest for the Comfort and the Grocery Cart for all those warships at work.
We reported to Craney Island Virginia where the largest fuel terminal in the United States is located. Pumped aboard as much fuel as possible in 5 hours then moved to the Norfolk Naval Station where nearly around the clock, trucks have been arriving with hundreds and hundreds of pallets. All loaded with medical supplies and food. Come Tuesday afternoon this ship will leave the pier bound for Haiti finished or not! All Aboard...
So the hospital ship and all the warships can stay on station and help the people of Haiti, we will bring them all they need to keep going; Groceries for the warships and medical supplies for the hospital ship. When we run low we are supposed to shag more stores from Florida. The fleet oiler BIG HORN will load fuel for everyone at our base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
So what would you pack for two months and you don't know if you will ever see a snack bar again? Either you lay in your own personal stash of crackers and microwave popcorn or face the possibility of groveling for late night snacks we all covet. One has to estimate just how much stress is going to be encountered and what perfect box of animal crackers or bag of Fritos is going to remedy it. After about two weeks at sea late night snacks are more valuable then bars of gold bullion. People have been reduced to barking seals and weeping hulks just for the bottom residue of club crackers. Bags of Doritos become currency, for greenbacks are only good when one is ashore and has easy access to a grocery store.
Stress is already anticipated as I have been monitoring the satellite circuits of activity in Haiti. I think a lot of young men and women that have been spared the closeness of war while being aboard ship are going to find a real reality check. Many bodies are being found in the water. I guess some island folks figured they would get rid of bodies by tossing them in the water. Thinking they would float out to sea and be gone.
When I was in the US Navy we seized a Haitian boat that had been adrift for days. 32 people on 28 foot boat. They had been biting each other and fighting over water. I fear these people ashore in Haiti are just about at that point now. It's not like the movies where the military rides into town passing out candy bars to children while the townspeople wave flags. I think as soon as a pallet of anything hits the ground it going to be survival of the fittest.
In a few hours we'll be putting to sea. We should be in the neighborhood in about four days. If you're watching the news we're the grey navy looking ship with no guns on it's decks and the number "2" painted on the bow."