Sailors Return from Tsunami Relief Mission - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/02/05

Sailors Return from Tsunami Relief Mission

They served at sea for months and wound up in an unexpected relief mission. But now, hundreds of Beaufort sailors are back home.

Members of Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 82 returned yesterday day from a five-month deployment aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. They spent the past month helping the victims of December's tsunami in Bandeh Aceh, Indonesia.

Family and friends say it's good to have the sailors home safe and sound. "Kyle was actually on deployment when he was born, and he's missed his first birthday and second birthday, but we're going to make up for that now," said military spouse Jennifer Baker.

Yesterday's return included ten F/A-18 jets along with more than 200 sailors.

They worked right in the middle of tsunami-ravaged Indonesia. They saw the damage up close and helped the people most in need over the last couple months. We talked with some of the sailors about their experience. They said it was tough duty, but definitely a time when they knew for a fact their efforts were making a difference.

Leaving the comfort zone of the USS Abraham Lincoln for the devastation in Indonesia gave sailors something to think about. "There was nothing really there," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Baker. "Everything was wiped out."

"We just realized how thankful we are for the things we have," added Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Tilley.

When the tsunami slammed into southern Asia on December 26, the aircraft carrier and the men and women aboard responded, delivering more than 5 million pounds of supplies to desperate, hurting people.

"Our main effort was getting the food to the helos and the helos dropping off the food to remote areas that couldn't get the food," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas Walt. "They made a mad rush for food as soon as we dropped it off."

"They were having riots over water and things like that, so they blocked that part of the terminal we were in," said Tilley.

Sailors who did get to go ashore and help with tsunami relief say people back here have no idea how bad the extent of the damage was. "I don't think you can unless you see it first hand," said Tilley.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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