Updated: Tuesday, 26 Jan 2010, 12:37 PM EST
Published : Monday, 18 Jan 2010, 2:17 PM EST
ABOARD THE USS BATAAN (WAVY) - January 24, 2010:
Art and I wrapped up our coverage of our local Ships and troops
helping with the relief efforts here in Haiti. We left the Bataan
via Navy chopper and flew to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. From there we
caught a Navy C-130 transport plane to Jacksonville, FL. It was
nice to touch down here in the United States where there is plenty
of food and clean water. We flew Southwest Airlines from
Jacksonville to Norfolk. This trip was a challenge in many ways,
especially trying to get video and pictures back to our station. We
sent everything back over the Internet and connectivity was spotty
at best. Thanks to everyone who followed our reports on TV and on
our web site. You can see more pictures and video of our travels on
the military page at wavy.com. Please keep the people of Haiti in
your thoughts and prayers, it will take years for them to recover
from this natural disaster. Jeff Myers
January 23, 2010:
We spent most of our day back on the USS Bataan. There is a
water shortage on the ship because the system they use to make
fresh water was not working like it should. They are trying to fix
the problem, but for now, there are water restrictions on board, no
showers at this time. In the early afternoon, we heard a
“mass casualty arriving” announcement over the ships PA
system. I went to the flight deck level and they were bringing in
more injured victims from the quake. Most were treated here on the
Bataan and then transferred to the US hospital ship Comfort. This
is a scene that plays out over and over here off the coast of Haiti
on the USS Bataan on many other Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard
Ships. Jeff Myers.
January 22, 2010:
Art and I flew in with the Marines to Leogane, a small coastal
village here in Haiti. We landed in a cow pasture that was secured
by the military and used as a drop off point for food and water.
While we were there, we saw about 10 chopper loads of bottled water
and military style MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) delivered. They
stacked the supplied in the middle of the field and prepared it all
to be distributed by the United Nations. The town was very poor and
there was earthquake damage. Many of the villagers came to watch
the military choppers come and go. We noticed many of the locals,
especially the children, cutting down sugar cane and chewing on it
raw. The Marines went on foot patrol, looking for a spot to set up
a medical facility sometime in the near future. We saw a small
plane land in the street bringing supplies from a faith based group
trying to help. Not only did they bring food, they donated fuel to
help keep the local generators running. The Marines will be working
this location for many weeks to come. Jeff Myers.
January 21, 2010 - 2:30 p.m.:
Today is Thursday and because of schedule delays and changes I have just a little time to bring those of you who have been following the blogs of Jeff Myers and I, thought this would be a good time to give all of you a little update.
The Bataan and her sister ships (Carter Hall, Gunston Hall and Fort McHenry) are continuing to move equipment personnel and supplies and of course the Marines on board these ships are working hard to facilitate this process as well. The work load continues to increase as does the pace and still morale is incredibly high out here. I know I have mentioned that already but I cannot say enough about this. I have been covering the Military beat for several years since I went to work for WAVY and while the men and women always get the job done, I have covered stories where (at times) morale can fall a little. Just like it does at anyone’s place of business sometimes. But, really, to watch these young people and their leadership put in long hours daily, and continue to stay motivated, is really incredible to experience. The families back home should be extremely proud of their loved ones serving on this humanitarian mission.
Jeff and I had hoped to go ashore today to see some aid distribution points but as I mentioned, the scheduled has changed a little bit. I understand this. There are other things that need to be transported from this ship needed more urgently than additional journalists on the ground. Yes it is important to tell this story, for many reasons, but the things and people that can do the most to provide timely relief to the quake victims, must come first. That said, we will be getting back on land to show you what the Hampton Roads Military Contingent is doing just as soon as there is an empty seat on a chopper.
Speaking of choppers, the amount of helicopter flights taking off from this ship is unbelievable. They are flying constantly all day long, a tribute to both the machines and the men and women who fly them as well as the support groups that keep them flying. When the people on land see them coming, there eyes light up with hope. From the air, you can see the Haitian people running and waving as the choppers pass overhead.
We are still experiencing after shocks out here. At lunch today we felt the ship bounce a little bit. The movement was coming from underneath the hull and was surely caused by another tremor (not just my opinion but everyone on board). I felt two of these tremors within about 10 or 15 minutes of each other. They are becoming so common place out there that it’s like, “Was that another aftershock?” “Yeah, can you pass the salt please?” I am told that the tremors pose no danger to the ship. Even if there was a sunami, and THERE HAS BEEN NO SUNAMI WARNING POSTED, this is still the safest place to be. There have been no reports of any serious damage or injuries as a result of the aftershocks from our people on land either.
I have to go now, but again, we are all doing well, and proud to be part of such a huge effort to help those in need.
January 21, 2010 - 12 a.m.
The last two days here off the coast of Haiti have been very busy for Art Kohn and myself. On Tuesday the 19th, we flew by Navy chopper from the USS Bataan to the USS Carter Hall. From there, we loaded up in a small boat and went ashore to the small village of Obonel, about 25 miles outside Port-au-Prince. As we hit the beach, the Navy was just arriving with several LCU's loaded with heavy equipment to clear roads and help rebuild.
The local villagers were all standing on the beach, very glad to see the military arrive. As we walked into the village, there were several who needed medical treatment and were later airlifted to the Bataan's medical unit. The village itself was in pretty bad shape. Most of the buildings were made of concrete blocks, sticks, and what appeared to be scrap lumber. Most were damaged by the earthquake and many locals would not re-enter their homes, afraid they might cave in. I found a woman selling rice for $1 a bowl to passers-by, trying to survive. Some spent their day washing clothes in the ocean, then hanging them to dry on a rusty fence. Some spoke broken English, and were very happy food and water were on the way.
We spent the day there as the Navy and Marines worked on building a base camp at an abandoned mission. It is amazing how much equipment the military can move. They had their base camp set up and operating by the end of the day. We shot our stories and rode back to the Carter Hall. Due to heavy medical evacuations and heavy use of the Navy choppers, we stayed the night on the Carter Hall. This was a great ship. They are doing a lot of heavy lifting out here moving equipment back and forth.
Wednesday morning on the Carter Hall is when we felt the 6.1 aftershock. It shook the ship pretty bad for about 20 seconds. I had several people tell me that they've been in the Navy for years and never felt anything like that at sea. The Capitan of the Bataan said it felt like we ran aground. The aftershocks lasted throughout the day, although not as bad as the day went on. After the first big one, it was business as usual and everyone went back to work like nothing ever happened.
We continue to file our stories back to WAVY via the Internet,
this part of out trip has been very challenging. If you live in
Hampton Roads and have family out here serving in the military, I
can tell you everyone is doing an awesome job and you should be
very proud of them. Check out wavy.com for more pictures and video.
January 19, 2010 - 9 p.m.
We received a blog post from Art Kohn, one of our reporters in Haiti:
After being at sea since last Thursday night, we finally got the opportunity to set foot on Haiti today. Before I tell you about what we saw there let tell you the process we endured to get there. Basically we leap-frogged our way to the island of Haiti. Our excursion to the island nation started aboard the USS Battan, our home these last several days, We hitched a ride aboard a MH-60 helicopter that took off from the flight deck of the Bataan at about 9AM Tuesday morning. The chopper took us to the Norfolk based USS Carter Hall, and amphibious Landing Dock Ship or LSD. Once aboard the Carter Hall we got a ride from one of the ship’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats or “RIB”. To board this small boat we had to descend a rope lade or pilot ladder about 20-feet from the deck to the boat. Then we took a brief ride to a beach landing at the village of Bonel, which is a little more than 20 miles southwest of Port-Au-Prince. Waiting for us on the beach were Haitian residents of the village. They were friendly and very happy to see the arrival of the US military. The Navy is currently putting heavy equipment and Seabees on land by way of amphibious boats known as LCUs. This is the first phase of setting up a forward operating base there from which they will be distributing, food, water, medicine and other relief supplies.
I am sure the residents of Bonel are curious to know where the relief supplies are but they will be coming in very soon now. Bonel is basically a shanty town with house made of sticks and much poverty. But the spirit of the Haitian people is remarkable. Despite the suffering and poverty we witnessed, we also saw many warm smiles and expressions of gratitude for the United States. I can assure you the young sailors and marines carrying out this humanitarian mission are inspired by this response and determined to carry out this mission to bring relief to this small county, devastated by the earth quake that struck there last week.
This is an incredible feat the U.S. Military and there partner nations are making possible. You have to remember, the Navy and Marines from Norfolk and Camp Lejeune basically had about 48 hours to put this thing together. Really, it is nothing short of a logistic miracle. And miracles are exactly what the people of Haiti need right now. That and generosity and compassion from the developed nations of the world, not just the U.S.
We are currently marooned aboard the USS Carter Hall. I say this because we were supposed to return to the USS Battan this afternoon. However, the helo [helicopter] that was going to take us back to the Bataan was diverted to perform a medical evacuation for a woman from the village of Bonel, suffering life-threatening injuries for a pregnant woman severely injured in the quake. Sadly, the baby did not survive, we [think] the mother will.
We hope to make it back to the Bataan where our video editing and transmitting equipment is so we can share with all of you what we experience today. I will keep you posted when I can.
January 19, 2010 - 8:30 p.m.
We also received this email from Jeff Myers earlier , our other reporter in Haiti. Bracketed text will explain some of the newsroom jargon:
I am using medical’s email account here so don’t reply to this address. We cannot connect to the cell tower tonight.. so we can not do a phoner [phone in during the news]. In the morning, hopefully we will get back to the Bataan. We have 3 packages [video stories] we can knock out and get back early.. they should be good ones. They are from our trip in to Haiti today. Sorry about the hit or miss on the content.. but we have to work around what the Navy is doing. Things are very busy here and sometimes we have to wait on the Navy to get us from point A to point B. It is not always in a “deadline timely” manner. I will say that the Navy is being very good to us. I will try to call you in the morning when I get back to the Bataan. Jeffrey Myers
January 19, 2010
Art and Jeff weren't able to file a report for the early evening news because they hadn't yet gotten back to the USS Bataan--they are on the USS Carter Hall, awaiting transport to the Bataan.
They had been airlifted from the Bataan to the Carter Hall, because the Carter Hall is right off the coast of Haiti. They were going to get on a chopper back to the Bataan, but the chopper was diverted for a medical evacuation.
Art said that they went ashore, and the Haitians that greeted them were happy to see the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
We hope to hear more from them tonight, once they get back to the Bataan and their equipment.
January 18, 2010:
After almost four days at sea, the Norfolk-based USS Bataan is expected to arrive off the coast of Haiti Monday. The ship plans to launch Marine Corps helicopters to fly over the hardest hit areas today and WAVY.com photojournalists Art Kohn and Jeff Myers will be on board one of those CH-53 helicopters.
January 17, 2010
Today was another busy day here aboard the USS Bataan steaming toward Haiti. The seas were really rough today.. the ship has been rolling around a bit. I felt it in my bunk this morning and this evening at the time of this writing.. things are still rolling around. There was a mass casualty drill today. This is when the ship “pretends” there are mass injuries on board and they bring “victims” to the medical wing for treatment. Everything went pretty smoothly, I am very impressed with the medical staff and capabilities of this ship. There is an ER, surgery rooms and several hundred hospital beds if needed. I noticed it is stocked very well with much needed medical supplies and great equipment. Hats off the the Galley folks here on the ship. There is always plenty to eat and let me tell you.. the Marines on board can put down some serious chow! There is always something to eat and hot coffee around the clock. We plan to be off the shore of Haiti sometime tomorrow (Monday).. Art Kohn and I will be going ashore as soon as we can. We have been told things there are still pretty bad.. we both will be shooting a lot of video and doing what we can to help bring this story home to you. It has been a challenge getting any media off this ship while we are under way. We hope this will not be a problem once we arrive. Check back soon for updates. Thanks.. Jeff
January 17, 2010
Well, we had a successful day on the USS Bataan today [Saturday]. The helicopter air wing arrived and the flight deck was really busy. Art Kohn shot video from the flight deck and I shot from the “vulture row” which is several stories above the flight deck. The ship continues to prepare for the Haiti relief mission. There are about 20 journalists, local and network on board, all covering the daily happenings here on the ship. Sending news content off the ship is very challenging while we are under way. When we are close to land, we use a cell air card in our laptops to send back our stories. When we are out of cell range, we have to use the ship email system to send our stories back to WAVY and Fox 43. The cell air card video quality is pretty good. The video quality is very low on the email video stories, but is something we have to live with while we are at sea. I am also sending back still pictures of the men and women of the USS Bataan hard at work. The Captain came on the intercom today and said how proud he was of the effort the Sailors and Marines are making and urged everyone to be focused on the mission at hand. We will keep you posted with as much content as possible as we get closer to Haiti.
January 16, 2010
After loading Marines and their heavy equipment throughout most of the night in Moorehead City, North Carolina, we are scheduled to get underway at about 9AM Saturday morning. This ship is really a crowded place right now.
Not only did we take on a bunch of Marines in Moorehead City, we also picked up several more members of the media. Some of these media crews are Network crews carrying even more equipment thanks local guys. I suspect this will make covering events on the ship a little more interesting now as well. However, so far everyone is working together well; I guess there is something about a humanitarian mission that makes even us members of the media play nicely together. I hope this spirit of cooperation continues.
The food on the ship is plentiful so far and actually pretty good, perhaps this is another reason everyone is getting along so well. I would also like to tell everyone that both the Navy and Marine Corps. personnel on the ship are treating us very well and being very helpful accommodating our request with regards to the things we need to tell their story.
We have been given great access to the ship so far. The Captain, Samuel Howard, from Norfolk, VA seems to be a great guy and I truly believe this is the consensus amongst the crew. As we get underway and head for Haiti, we will be conducting flight operations soon, taking on helicopters.
A Marine Flight officer told me at breakfast this morning that we will not be taking on any Osprey Aircraft for this operation. They are currently tied up on the west coast. None the less, I think the military has what it needs to get this mission done and bring much need relief to the people of Haiti.
By they way, Haitians aren't the only ones needing help on the Island Nation, there are several American citizens there as well who are in need of help. We hope to bring them that assistance very soon. The last thing I heard about our arrival off the coast of Haiti is sometime Tuesday morning.
I have to get to work and shoot some video now, so I will put the keyboard away and grab my camera. Speaking of camera, I want to give a shout out to my Chief Photographer, Jeff Myers who is working with me on the ship. Jeff has done an outstanding job, pulling off technical miracles enabling us to get live-shots and great video off the ship and out to all of our viewers. I am glad he is here.
Both of us will keep you posted on the mission as best we can, whenever we can.
January 15, 2010
Art & Jeff – coming to you from on board the USS Bataan.
We got into Morehead City, North Carolina late Friday afternoon and started cranking away.
If you get a chance to see our video reports, you’ll see our interview with Captain Samuel Carter who goes into detail about what this ship can do and why it was called into this humanitarian effort. In a second, separate report, we also found a sailor who is on board, and he lost family members in the Haiti Earthquake. This mission is obviously personal for him. His shipmates are helping him through it.
A little bit about how we are getting our material back to you in Hampton Roads: we’re geared up with laptops with broadband capabilities & our live shots are coming back to you via Skype. We have been able to email our stories in to you when the communication pipe opens.
All of our stories are shot with our High-Definition cameras, and that’s why the video quality looks so good. The Navy does have security protocols, so when the communication goes down, we go dark. Our updates will be sporadic over the weekend, but we are honored to bring you these stories.
We’ll bring you more as soon as, and as best as we can. But now it’s off to the mess hall – we’re on military time!
This may be hard to believe in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but an annual …