And here is page two...
Subject: IWO Update - 7 Sep 05
We finally had a chance to have Captain's Call this morning. The ship has been running at full speed for 8 days straight with a myriad of changing missions and requirements piled on top of us. I thought it best to tell the crew where I thought this was going and what impact we have made. I told them that as with any contingency operations there is that initial surge of energy and inspiration that often times gives way to frustration and tedium; I did not want them to underestimate the magnitude of what they were accomplishing each day by their hard work on the flight deck, the galley, the well deck, CIC, Radio Central (JMC), on the pier, and in the engineering spaces to support this great undertaking. Every job on the ship is important and the contribution of IWO JIMA has already been enormous.
Our contributions have been growing. Today, we opened out doors to 900-1,200 Army, National Guard, and local law enforcement personnel to take showers and get hot meals. We were getting overwhelmed. There was a steady stream of 60 to 100 every hour on the quarterdeck asking to come onboard and get refreshed. The word has obviously gotten out. One Army Captain told the Command Master Chief that his unit of 60 soldiers had come from 60 miles away because his general told him to "go to IWO JIMA and they'll take care of you." We couldn't say no.
Not satisfied with the record-setting flight operations yesterday, the flight deck team nearly doubled the number of aircraft hits. At one point the team was bringing in Army Blackhawks two at a time, one group after another in perfect sequence. It was an impressive sight to behold. Medical casualties continued to come onboard the ship, some by stretcher and ambulance, others by air or boat. After yesterday, the Medical folks reworked their procedures, so today everything flowed smoothly. Supply department has served up thousands of meals; the mess line never closes. Deck department got back to their roots and conducted boat operations and a sterngate marriage with TORTUGA's LCM-8 landing craft, moving more supplies to our sister ship. But lest we forget, the bedrock of IWO JIMA's strength lies in three simple things: electricity, air conditioning, hot water - all provided by the uncomplaining engineers.
But of all the manifold capabilities of good ship IWO JIMA, medical, logistic, and air support, our command and control capabilities have moved to the forefront. It almost sounds surreal but IWO JIMA has literally become the headquarters, the "center of the universe" for all Federal recovery efforts - DoD as well as civilian. It is on this ship that the myriad efforts have all come together. Yesterday, for the first time ever, some 17 admirals and generals got together with the Joint Task Force Commander, General Honore, face to face to coordinate the numerous and ever growing military recovery and support efforts. Today, the same cadre of admirals and generals were back onboard but this time accompanied by the civilian side. FEMA has now established their headquarters on the pier along side (and onboard IWO JIMA) to better coordinate their efforts with us. But with this has come an ever growing number of staff members embarking on the ship. Our population has grown from a crew of some 1,200 to nearly 2,500 (including several hundred guardsmen and soldiers living onboard) with all the detachments, augments, and now senior staffs. I think we are now up to one three-star, one two-star, and four one-stars embarked good ship IWO JIMA. We are bursting at the seams. We have spent the vast majority of our days taking care of and chasing down the myriad staff members. It is like herding cats, except these cats fly on and off our flight deck periodically.
I had a chance to meet Governor Blanco of Louisiana and her Lieutenant Governor today when she came onboard for the giant 1200 briefing with General Honore and were later joined by Admiral Nathman and Vice Admiral Fitzgerald. The ships Ready Room was bursting at the seams with senior officers and high officials - you had to step outside just to change your mind. I had seen the Governor on TV many times. She looked different in person: tired and worn out. She told me that she was averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, but smiled, "I guess that's about what you get in the military." You could see the severe strain of the past weeks events. I quoted her the famous line from Churchill the night be became Prime Minister of wartime Britain, "that it was as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all of my past life had been but preparation for this moment and this trial." The recovery from the damage of Hurricane Katrina is an unprecedented trial for the Governor and many, many others. My observation is that America, throughout her history, has always been slow to respond, but once that powerful engine gets into gear it is massive and unstoppable. I suspect this will also be the case for the Gulf Coast.
It has become our tradition at the evening department head meeting to go around the room and have each person list the stupidest or silliest thing they heard or saw during the day. As you can imagine, the log book is overflowing with accounts. Yesterday it was the helos and the elephants at the zoo. Today it was me. I have been inundated with doing interviews: CNN, Pentagon press, Regina Mobley and Channel 13 news, the Boston Globe, Carla McCabe and the Army Times, and finally Greta Van Susturen. We did a spot with Greta on the pier this morning with the massive bow of IWO JIMA in the background and helos flying on and off the ship with great noise - an impressive backdrop for this puffed up officer. As I was being interviewed by Greta, a pair of Blackhawks swooped onto the flight deck sending up a great wind which blew off my ball cap. I instinctively scrambled after it before it blew into the water. When I turned around the FOX News photographer looked at me and smiled, "I got that on film."
Look for me chasing my hat down the pier on the next Fox News spot.
All the best,