MOUNT VERNON — A Mount Vernon young man is heavily involved in the humanitarian relief effort in Haiti. Navy Petty Officer Zachary Zimmerman is a crew member on the USS Carter Hall, which is now in the water off Haiti providing transportation ashore for food and medical supplies. He is the son of Scott and Julie Zimmerman of Mount Vernon.
Tuesday afternoon he surprised his dad with a satellite telephone call from a landing craft off the coast. He was going on shore to help set up landing sites for helicopters bringing in supplies. He described to his dad that the devastation is unbelievable, with buildings flattened in Port-au-Prince. He decribed the mood of the people as frustrated at not getting relief. But people in rural areas are a little better off, he said, as they are more self-sufficient. According to Zimmerman, bodies are being carried away in front end loaders.
An all-conference football player for Mount Vernon High School, the 6-foot-4 1/2-inch tall, 230-pounder enlisted in the Navy in March 2006. After boot camp he took intensive training in rescue swimming at Peninsula Naval Station, then was assigned to the Carter Hall in November 2006.
Zimmerman is a Boatswain Mate third class and has the job of signaling amphibious landing craft aboard the Carter Hall. He also does flight operations for helicopters when they land aboard ship. Scott Zimmerman added that Zach he has performed most of the jobs on the ship.
The Carter Hall is a Landing Ship Dock, or LSD, and it transports and launches amphibious craft and helicopters which carry personnel and supplies on shore. A Navy Web site lists the vessel as weighing 16,360 pounds fully loaded; it is 610 feet long and powered by four 16-cylinder diesel engines rated at 33,000 horsepower. It’s speed is 20 knots.
It can carry two landing craft air cushion vessels, and a variety of landing craft and tracked amphibious assault vehicles. Its flight deck has two spots, and lands and services helicopters.
Zach Zimmerman has seen some action on the Carter Hall. In his first deployment in 2007-08 in the Persian Gulf, they encountered and sunk three small pirate boats that were being towed behind the captured ship the Danica White off the coast of Somalia.
In another deployment, the ship circled the Mediterranean Sea, where he was able to go ashore in various ports. Recently home on leave, he returned to his ship Jan. 11. Deployed to Haiti, the Carter Hall left its home port of Little Creek, Va., at 5 a.m. on Jan. 13.
Zimmerman told his dad the scuttlebutt is to expect to stay 90 days for the Haiti relief effort. His enlistment is over in March, but he has already reinlisted for three years and will go to Air Force Military Police school at San Antonio, Texas. He and his wife, Kristin (Hill), and their daughter live in Virginia Beach, Va.