By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Hendrick L. Dickson, Navy News Service
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen addressed the Navy's ongoing participation in Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts during a Sept. 8 interview.
The Navy has played a major role in relief efforts since
Hurricane Katrina ravaged much of the Gulf Coast, paralyzing the entire area.
Mullen began by expressing his sympathy to all of those who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to everybody who was affected by this, and we know it was many thousands, including a significant number of our Navy uniformed members as well as civilians and their families."
Mullen said thousands of Sailors and Seabees and more than 20 ships are currently in the area providing medical services, conducting search and rescue and search and recovery operations as well as dive and salvage efforts.
"We have several ships in the area including USS Harry
S. Truman (CVN 75), USS Bataan
(LHD 5) and USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), which are the big ships that are down there, but we also have USS Shreveport (LPD 12) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with significant helo capability, which has allowed us to rescue many people.
"And we've got USS Grapple (ARS 53) in the area as well," he continued, "providing diving, salvage and survey efforts for damaged ports and additionally, significant medical capability, and tonight USNS Comfort
(T-AH 20) will arrive, and she'll add significant capability as well."
"I would call it typical Navy Sailors doing a great job, and they really are performing at a high level. It makes me proud to be associated with them."
Mullen reinforced his commitment to the Navy family by expressing his concerns for those members affected by the tragedy. He emphasized that help is available for those who need assistance.
"You've heard me speak of family readiness early in my tenure as CNO, and we've all got to wrap our arms around all the families," he said.
"There is a significant effort going on right now with respects to working to take care of them, whether it's financial needs, housing needs or any other needs they might have."
Mullen encouraged people in need to call the Navy's casualty assistance center telephone line in Millington, Tenn., at 1-877-414-5358. The center is operational 24 hours a day.
"There are a lot of people there who can give the kind of direction to somebody in need at this particular time," he said.
Finally, Mullen pointed out that the Navy is not alone in the relief efforts. He praised other services involved as well as international allies for their response and called the relief efforts a mission of jointness.
"This is a total team effort. It is all the services - we're down there with the Marines, the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard, the National Guard - upward of 42 states as I understand it are involved in this, and all the other federal agencies - and everybody is there with one team and one purpose, and that is to help the people and the cities who were so hard-hit in this particular disaster."
"I also would like to thank our allies who have had ships show up, in particular Mexico and the Dutch, who provided capability as well."
"I know that the effort is great," Mullen continued. "I know the people are terrific and that the outcome will be very, very positive to helping this area get back on its feet."
Navy Personnel Command
has set up a 24-hour help line for Navy members and their families to call for information regarding their loved ones. Those who need help can call 1-877-414-5358.