Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bataan, 22nd MEU, Amphibious Ready Group Arrive Off Haiti Coast

ABOARD USS BATAAN (NNS) -- The ships of the USS Bataan (LHD 5) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived off the coast of Haiti Jan. 19 to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for earthquake survivors and bolster relief operations already underway in support of Operation Unified Response.

MEU and ARG leadership met with Rear Adm. Ted Branch, commander, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group and his staff on board Vinson to discuss future operations.

According to 22nd MEU commanding officer, Col. Gareth F. Brandl, the Navy and Marine Corps units will begin providing assistance as soon as possible.

"We are here to support the Haitian people in an area that has been hard hit by this disaster." said Brandl. "As relief operations continue, we will further assess the needs of people in the area and refine how we can best support them with the capabilities we bring."

The major earthquake destroyed buildings and caused devastation throughout Port Au Prince and the surrounding areas Jan. 12. The 22nd MEU was ordered to assist the next morning and was fully embarked and underway aboard the ships Bataan, USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 5) Jan. 16 in the morning hours. The ships of the Bataan ARG were underway from Norfolk to pick up the Marines and their equipment on Jan. 14.

"Something that normally would take weeks to plan execute happened in a matter of days," said Capt. Sam Howard, commanding officer of Bataan.

This sea-based force will bring added capabilities to aid the relief efforts without taxing the already strained infrastructure ashore. Comprised of heavy-lift and utility helicopters, trucks and humvees, assault amphibian vehicles, and logistics capabilities to include water purification and limited medical support, the 22nd MEU will further enhance the humanitarian relief efforts ashore.

The 22nd MEU is a multimission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.

In addition to Bataan, the Amphibious Relief Mission also includes Carter Hall, Fort McHenry, USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 15, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Assault Craft Unit 4 and Beachmaster Unit 2.