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Subject: Report from the Skipper of the U.S.S. Iwo Jima off N.O. L.A.
    9/13/2005 11:25:43 PM
Subject: IWO Update - 6 Sep 05

Hello All;

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. I had an opportunity to talk to the Director
of Homeland Security for a few minutes in my cabin. I asked him if
there was anything more I could do for him, he asked if he could get a
shower. I was glad to turnover my cabin to him. The local FEMA
coordinator and his logistics and security teams were on my quarterdeck
this afternoon asking permission to set up their command center on the
pier next to the ship. While they had sophisticated command and control
equipment, they had no place to berth their 250 FEMA members. We were
glad to give them a home. Contrary to the press, all the FEMA people I
met had been on station since last Sunday (before the Hurricane hit),
never left the area, and have been in the field ever since. The command
duty officer was told that one state trooper had driven 80 miles to get
to the ship. He said that the word was out: Come to IWO JIMA. We
expect that the flood gates will open on us.


Early this morning we received our first medical emergency: an elderly
woman with stroke-like symptoms. Throughout the day we received about a
dozen medical emergencies, the most serious was an elderly man who was
stabbed in the chest and was bleeding to death. The doctors performed
surgery on him and saved his life. I toured the hospital ward; all our
charges were elderly and disadvantaged individuals. As with Hotel IWO
JIMA, we expect to see many more casualties tomorrow.


Our curse appears to be our flight deck and our extraordinary command
and control capabilities. Our challenge today was the tidal wave of
Flag and General Officers that flooded onboard, 17 total, virtually all
without notice. I couldn't believe there were so many involved in this
effort and they all wanted to come here. They poured onto the flight
deck in one helicopter after another in order to meet with General
Honore, the Joint Task Force Commander. The majority showed up around
the same time and all wanted to leave at the same time, making it a
nightmare for our flight deck team to control and coordinate flights on
and off the ship for all these admirals and generals while supporting
the humanitarian effort. I spent most of the day running around the
ship getting these people off and on helicopters and in and out of the
meetings and command spaces. It was like herding cats. But the ship
performed superbly and "flexed" to meet the challenge. Regretfully, we
expect nearly 20 admirals and generals onboard tomorrow for more
meetings. To add to the challenges, virtually all of these commands are
sending liaison staffs to help coordinate issues, and already a number
of admirals and generals have "permanently" embarked. The Inn is full.


I talked to one of the FEMA team members who had also worked the
disaster relief for 9/11. I asked him how much more difficult was the
Katrina relief effort compared to 9/11. He said it was without measure:
thousand of times worse than 9/11. He couldn't articulate the magnitude
of the destruction.


Despite all the challenges, I think
 
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