By SOF Editor on Tue, 02/09/2010 - 11:09am
The USS Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed Haiti Feb. 7, continuing on its originally scheduled deployment to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).
The Nassau ARG includes ships from Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8: the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).
The three ships and nearly 2,000 Sailors departed Virginia Jan. 18 on a deployment to the CENTCOM AOR, but were diverted to Haiti to provide assistance to the victims of the earthquake that struck the country Jan. 12, after on-loading more than 2,300 Marines of the 24th MEU.
Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), released the ARG/MEU from the mission after assessments made from leadership of the multinational interagency effort indicated that ground-based relief efforts had drastically improved.
"Thanks to the expeditionary capabilities of the Nassau ARG with embarked 24th MEU, we were able to help the government of Haiti, UN and international relief workers mitigate the immediate impact of the earthquake on communities both near and further away from the epicenter," Fraser said. "The ongoing contributions of U.S. and international relief organizations with extensive experience and expertise in helping nations recover from disasters has lessened the need for units with capabilities like those of the Nassau ARG and the 24th MEU, so I have released them from this mission with our utmost gratitude for their timely support to this important humanitarian mission."
While on the ground in Haiti, the Marines of the 24th MEU were instrumental in assisting the World Food Program (WFP) in Carrefour and Maison Lecrai. WFP is conducting a targeted and systematic food distribution to the Haitian people at 16 distribution sites around Haiti.
The 24th MEU also assisted Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti with the construction of a 250-bed interim aftercare medical facility in Port-au-Prince that will be turned over to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide follow-on care for convalescent patients recovering from surgeries.
Medical and dental personnel from the 24th MEU treated more than 100 Haitians on the island of Gonave. Additionally, medical personnel aboard Nassau and Mesa Verde treated 16 Haitian earthquake victims aboard shipboard medical facilities.
"I'm very grateful and blessed that I could help make a really big difference in a time of need," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Laketta Thomas of Nassau. "It means so much to me to know that I have provided care, support and understanding to those that needed help."
Lance Cpl. Brian O. Melendez echoed similar thoughts.
"The satisfaction of being able to help here means a lot," he said. "The Haitian people needed our help, and we were able to do a lot for them."
The Nassau ARG/24th MEU are en route the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR to conduct theater security cooperation missions and serve as 5th Fleet's Theater Reserve, relieving the USS Bonhomme Richard ARG and 11th MEU.
On Saturday, two other Navy ships, USS Normandy (CG 60) and USS Underwood (FFG 36), also completed operations in Haiti. On station for a total of 21 days, Normandy and its crew delivered meals donated by the not-for-profit organization "Kids Against Hunger," more than 1,000 gallons of water, and other food items to towns on the Haitian island of La Gonave.
Underwood and its attached Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 60, Detachment 1, arrived in Haiti Jan. 16 and immediately began providing support to the Naval Oceanographic Center's critical survey, making it possible for relief ships to navigate safely in and out of the Port-au-Prince harbor. Underwood quickly became a lifeline for relief efforts, delivering hundreds of boxes including food and water, conducting 82 lifesaving medical evacuations and transporting approximately 600 personnel.
While these humanitarian assistance assets departed the theatre, another joined the mission, as SOUTHCOM deployed a team of logistics specialists from Army installations nationwide. The Joint Logistics Command (JLC) comprises 2,000 troops that will support the movement of relief supplies from ports of entry to distribution points with landing craft, cargo handling equipment and transport vehicles.