News: USS Lassen, HSM-51 support Operation Damayan
By Ensign Haben Petros, USS Lassen Public Affairs
LEYTE GULF, Philippines - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) provided assistance to Operation Damayan after being the first U.S. Navy ship attached to the George Washington Strike Group to arrive on station in the Leyte Gulf, Nov. 13.
Lassen with its embarked helicopter detachment, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 51 Det. 3 became a very vital part of the units directly supporting relief operations in the Republic of the Philippines.
The Strike Group used Lassen as a floating fuel station to provide much needed fuel for the helicopters. Lt. Cmdr. Steven Dobesh, HSM-51 Det. 3 officer in charge (OIC) and senior pilot, described the ship as invaluable to relief efforts.
“Lassen enabled helicopter crews to deliver more food and water without the need to transit back as many as 80 miles round trip to their respective ships,” said Dobesh. “Over the course of one day, those transits for fuel can add up to more than two to three hours not spent helping people in need.”
HSM-51 Det. 3 provided approximately 49,000 pounds of food, water and relief supplies to remote villages.
Lassen sailors also found unique ways to contribute to the relief efforts. A donation drive was led to collect unused personal goods including toiletries and food purchased from the ship’s store for HSM-51 Det. 3 to deliver ashore.
Cmdr. Robert Francis, the ship’s executive officer, was on hand to make the deliveries.
“I wish you were there to see the joy and relief on the faces of the local villagers. Pictures cannot capture the emotion of the moment,” said Francis.
One village expressed their gratitude of U.S. Navy’s efforts during their time of need with letters written by children and adults. One man wrote, “Thank you so much for the support you have given us. We will never forget your kindness. U.S. NAVY! I SALUTE YOU!!”
Lassen is with the George Washington Strike Group on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.