USS IWO JIMA, At Sea -- The arrival of Hurricane Isaac on the Gulf Coast reminded deployed Sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) of the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused seven years ago on Aug. 29, 2005.
Iwo Jima served as the flagship for President George W. Bush shortly after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, La.
Some Sailors who served aboard Iwo Jima during Hurricane Katrina are currently deployed on the ship now.
Lt. Gwen Major, Iwo Jima’s training officer, witnessed the efforts of repair division when he was a lieutenant junior grade aboard Iwo Jima during Katrina relief efforts.
“Many Sailors were out in the ship’s small boats rescuing people from collapsed bridges, rooftops or buildings,” said Major. “We dewatered churches, buildings, helped with drainage in areas, assisted with plumbing repairs, as well as anything that was needed in the city. It was extraordinary to see what Iwo did in New Orleans, and I was most proud to serve in the United States Navy.”
Lt. Chris Bannon, now Iwo Jima’s communications officer, was a chief select aboard Iwo Jima during Hurricane Katrina, and remembers the 2005 humanitarian mission well.
“I remember the chief select list came out on July 29, and exactly one month later, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans,” said Bannon. “As ship’s company, we were given 48 hours notice to ship out for the humanitarian mission and serve as the command ship for Joint Task Force Katrina. No one knew how bad it was until we got there and saw roofs of houses floating past the ship.”
The vivid relief efforts of Iwo Jima’s crew have not been forgotten and Aug. 29 will always serve as a reminder of those involved and burdened by the natural disaster.
“The uniqueness of the Navy is that it flexes,” said Major. “We do what we do without question when called upon, especially when it comes to helping people. Seeing the entire ship transform into a safe haven seven years ago made me realize how easily the Navy can flex its capabilities. Hurricane Isaac’s presence at this time of year created a flashback for me of what we did.”