Pentagon positions aircraft carrier to help Turkey’s earthquake recovery efforts
Stars and Stripes February 8, 2023
The Pentagon is moving an aircraft carrier already deployed in the Mediterranean Sea closer to Turkey in the latest response of U.S. military forces to earthquakes that have killed thousands of people in the region, a Defense Department spokesman said Wednesday.
The USS George H.W. Bush, a Nimitz-class super carrier, has begun sailing toward Turkey to help in the massive recovery effort, if Turkish officials ask for the additional aid, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon. The ship will join other U.S. military assets sent to respond to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Monday — including Urban Search and Rescue teams, C-17 cargo jets, and helicopters to aid in search and rescue efforts.
“We're trying to do everything we can to lean forward to be responsive to their requests, and help them as they try to save lives and recover,” Ryder said Wednesday of efforts to help the NATO ally.
The Bush is the flagship of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which is on deployment in support of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa area of operations. The aircraft carrier was most recently ported in Greece, where it visited Piraeus last week, the Navy said in a statement.
The nuclear-powered ship, home-ported at Norfolk, Va., can carry a crew of more than 5,500 sailors and house more than 90 planes and helicopters, according to the Navy. It departed Norfolk for its deployment in August.
Ryder said the U.S. military was working to provide medical and water supplies for the recovery efforts. He said U.S. military helicopters based at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base began moving first responders on Tuesday into positions to help recovery efforts. He said additional American disaster assistance response teams were expected to arrive in Turkey on Wednesday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Monday after the earthquake, Ryder said.
“We offer our sincere condolences, and we'll stand with our ally Turkey as they work to save lives and recover from this horrific disaster,” the general said.
The powerful earthquake and a second 7.5-magnitude quake hours later leveled thousands of buildings in Turkey and neighboring Syria. More than 11,000 people were killed in the quakes as of Wednesday, according to The Washington Post, which labeled it the deadliest earthquake incident in more than a decade. Almost 50,000 people had been reported injured as of Wednesday, and officials expected both numbers to continue to rise, the Post reported.
Ryder said the U.S. military was working with Syria Defense Forces — its proxy forces trained in eastern Syria to fight Islamic State militants — to respond to the devastation in that country.