October 07, 2009

Live Blog: DoD Roundtable with U.S. Navy CDR Matthew Ovios

The following is a live blog feed of the “DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable” with U.S. Navy CDR Matthew Ovios, commanding officer of the USS Ingraham. The USS Ingraham had provided disaster relief to American Samoa following a devastating tsunami that struck the island on September 29, 2009. CDR Ovios participated from aboard the USS Ingraham which is en route to the Arabian Sea.

3:00 PM CDR Ovios: The USS Ingraham departed from Naval Station Everett, Washington on September 3 and had been participating in a combined exercise in the Pacific with the French Navy on September 29. When the exercise concluded, we made for Pago Pago and we received word that there had been a tsunami. We arrived in America Samoa on October 1.

3:03 PM What did the USS Ingraham bring that was unique to this disaster relief mission?

CDR Ovios: Well the Ingraham was the only asset in the area with helicopter support to do aerial search and rescue.

3:04 PM Did you experience any unusual wave activity with respect to the tsunami?

CDR Ovios: No we didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary – it was a routine Pacific sea. But when we got to American Samoa we were told by locals that the tsunami had created 15-16 ft waves.

3:05 PM Did you have to modify your helos since you usually act as a sub-hunter?

CDR Ovios: No, our crew is trained in search and rescue and we did have joint effort with the Coast Guard who provided support in our S&R missions.  

3:07 PM Was there anything you were tasked to do that you did not have the capacity to deliver on?

CDR Ovios: We were asked to provide electricity, and while we had four generators on board the ship it just wasn't enough to meet their needs. Also we did receives requests to do some underwater surveys for pipelines, etc. but we don’t have technical divers to do those sorts of activities.  

3:09 PM What resources have been the most useful in supporting your relief efforts?

CDR Ovios: Definitely our helos because there were no other helos assisting in operations. Plus the Coast Guard C-130s which allowed us do an assessment of the island and helped us get a handle on the extent of the damage. The crew of course was extremely important in clearing debris in Pago Pago so that emergency responders could get in, and we had nearly all two hundred sailors helping with this.

3:10 PM What sort of medical support did you provide to the relief efforts?

CDR Ovios: We had two corpsmen, and the lead was trained as physicians’ assistant. Together the two corpsmen treated 110-120 injured people in a day. This really helped out the local hospitals since they were able to triage the minor injuries and keep the local hospitals less crowded so that they could treat more serious injuries. 

3:11 PM Was there an unusual drawdown of your supplies and have you been resupplied yet for your next mission?

CDR Ovios: One of the reasons we were heading to Pago Pago was to get fuel, so fuel was not an issue. And as far as getting resupplied, the Air Force C-130s provided humanitarian relief supplies. The mission itself was very much routine and was a great demonstration of the joint cooperation between the different services involved and FEMA.  

3:15 PM CDR Ovios: Some quick final thoughts. This was an incredibly rewarding mission for my crew. Sailors were chomping at the bit to help out Americans. It was great to be the first on scene and had precise execution with Joint Task Force for Homeland Defense. It was very encouraging for all of us to see that the Air Force, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, and Navy could come together so quickly and provide relief to those that needed it.