Navy sends ship to Georgia; prepares 2 more
August 22, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — The U.S. Navy has dispatched a ship to deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia and is preparing two others to transit the Black Sea to deliver supplies, Navy officials said.
Late Wednesday, the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul left Souda Bay, Crete, loaded with 40 pallets of baby food, diapers, hygiene items and milk. Another 32 pallets contained paper plates, toilet paper, plastic tableware and bottled water.
Within the next day or two, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas — which until recently had been in the Gulf of Guinea as part of the Navy’s Africa Partnership Station program — will head to Georgia, followed by the amphibious command and control ship USS Mount Whitney by month’s end, said Cmdr. Scott Miller, spokesman for Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples.
The Dallas, now in Souda Bay, will carry about 50 pallets of diapers, hygiene items, and milk sterilized briefly at a high temperature (UHT). Both it and the McFaul should arrive in Georgia in about a week. The Mount Whitney, 6th Fleet’s flagship, will sail from its homeport of Gaeta, Italy, carrying 77 pallets of baby food, diapers, hygiene items, and UHT milk, and 4,000 blankets.
Navy leaders selected the McFaul to lead the special humanitarian delivery task force mainly because of its proximity to Georgia, said mission commander Navy Capt. John Moore.
"Our mission is to get the supplies there as quickly as possible to be distributed to the people, who are suffering," Moore, who heads the Navy’s Task Force 67 in Sigonella, Sicily, said.
Though loading of supplies on the Mount Whitney started Tuesday, official plans to send the ships weren’t signed off until late Wednesday, after the U.S. announced that Turkey had granted permission for the vessels to transit the Bosphorus Strait.
The Navy already had ruled out sending the service’s two hospital ships, and the three ships tapped to deliver goods won’t be carrying any additional medical staff.
The Georgian government requested aid in the form of medicine, food, and temporary housing, said Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker, a spokesman for U.S. European Command.