Capt. Lansden applies experience from Hurricane Katrina recovery to Iraq reconstruction mission

American Maritime Officers member Capt. Robert Lansden has more reconstruction experience than most.

Aboard the USNS Pollux in 2005, Capt. Lansden with permission from the Navy used his ship’s resources to provide lifesaving assistance to the people and community of his native New Orleans, La., in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Serving on active duty in the Navy and attached to an Army civil affairs brigade, Capt. Lansden applied that experience to reconstruction work in Iraq. Louisiana-based WVUE Fox 8 recently reported on his accomplishments both in the military and as a merchant mariner.

When Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, the Pollux was docked there for engine repairs. With several hundred thousand gallons of diesel fuel and water onboard, the Pollux was ready to help the people of New Orleans. Using the ship’s resources, the officers and crew of the Pollux provided a variety of critical services and supplies to the devastated community, including kidney dialysis for patients from West Jefferson Medical Center onboard the ship.

“No question about it, the actions of Captain Lansden and the officers and crew of the Pollux saved the lives of those patients,” said Dr. Charles Thomas, a surgeon at the hospital.

Almost five years later, Capt. Lansden employed the experience gained during Katrina to aid in reconstruction of another port city – Basra, Iraq. On active duty, he served as director of the U.S. Army’s Civil Military Operations Center, which rebuilds roads, schools and public buildings in some of Iraq’s most dangerous areas. He also served in Iraq as Civil Military Operations chief of the Multi-National Force Southeast in southern Iraq to develop the region’s maritime transportation system, reviving five ports and a major bridge. He was decorated with the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.

A video interview with Capt. Lansden and Dr. Thomas is available on the WVUE Fox 8 Web site.

SOURCE: American Maritime Officers website – AMO Currents – February 11, 2010 

Gen. Powell presents Capt. Lansden with the Silver Service Medallion for “exemplary leadership” during the Hurricane Katrina


Capt. Robert Lansden  is flanked by former California Gov. Pete Wilson  (left) and Gen. Colin Powell, former chairman of  the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of  State, after Gen. Powell presented Capt. Lansden  with the Silver Service Medallion for his  “exemplary leadership” as master of the USNS  Pollux during the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in New Orleans in 2005. Capt. Lansden was chosen to represent all U.S. merchant mariners who  responded to the crisis. The Army, The Navy and the “first responder” police and firefighters were  also represented by one individual from each service at the award ceremony at the World War II  Museum in New Orleans.


SOURCE: Gulf Coast Marine rs Association GCMA News – Aug/Sept 2006 issue


Capt. Lansden receives U.S. Merchant Marine Medal for service during Hurricane Katrina

The mariners who worked aboard five Military Sealift Command vessels – the
USNS Algol, USNS Altair, USNS Bellatrix, USNS Pollux and USNS Pililaau – during the relief and recovery efforts on the U.S. Gulf Coast following Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita received the U.S. Merchant Marine Medal June 14, 2006 for
their service.

The medals were presented aboard the USNS Brittin in Violet, La., during a
Military Sealift Command ceremony coordinated by American Overseas Marine
Corp. (AMSEA). Attending the ceremony for MSC were Rear Adm. Hugo Blackwood, vice commander, and John Henry.

“The service rendered by these vessels speaks volumes about the capability and commitment of the merchant mariners working aboard them and the companies, such as
AMSEA, that manage these ships, and about the ability of the MSC fleet to deliver in the times of our nation’s greatest need,” said Capt. Bob Groom, Master of the Brittin, who was
emcee at the ceremony.

The Pollux was undergoing engine repairs Aug. 28 when Hurricane Katrina hit. The ship weathered the storm with the rest of New Orleans. MSC gave Captain Robert Lansden,
Master of the Pollux, authorization to make the ship’s resources available to the local relief effort. The Pollux became the source of fuel for the generators of area hospitals, pumping stations, water treatment plants, firefighting and military camps. With assistance from West Jefferson Medical Center, an emergency dialysis unit was set up in the ship’s laundry room. The ship’s engineers also helped the Audubon Zoo with potable water and assisted the aquarium and the local morgue with pumping, refrigeration, and mechanical systems. With its own air-conditioning, running water, and working toilets, the Pollux was a haven in 100-degree heat for emergency workers and families.

“When all command and control was gone, we had to do what was right,” Capt. Lansden said. That theme prevailed in his remarks during the ceremony, and Capt. Lansden singled out several of his officers and crewmembers for their selfless dedication to helping those in need in the aftermath of the storm and flooding. In all, the Pollux fed 14,000 people and pumped 1.7 million gallons of fuel over 56 days, Capt. Lansden said. “The buses that evacuated this city ran on Military Sealift Command fuel and I’ve got to thank you for letting us give it away.”

As soon as the river was reopened after Katrina, Capt. Paul Breslin, Master of the Altair, brought the ship in to refuel the Pollux so that pumping operations could be sustained. The
Algol and Bellatrix provided housing and transport for emergency services workers on the Gulf Coast and, on their own time, the crew of the Bellatrix saved and cared for orphaned pets in the New Orleans area. The Pililaau provided housing, transportation and support for marines and paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne, who served in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi as part of Task Force Katrina, assisting disaster response agencies and victims of the hurricanes.

Referring to the credo of the U.S. Merchant Marine, “In Peace And War,” Capt. Lansden said that, in war, merchant mariners will risk their lives to deliver the cargo because they know the people on the other end depend upon it. In peace, he said, these ships are a tremendous vehicle for helping people in a natural disaster. During the hurricane relief efforts, all five ships were operated by AMSEA and manned in all licensed positions by American Maritime Officers and in all unlicensed positions by the Seafarers International Union.

SOURCE: American Maritime Officer – July 2006 (Front Page)