Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Maritime Force Serves as Cornerstone of Relief Operations in Haiti

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A sea-based force of 8,500 Sailors, 11 ships and 42 aircraft is currently supporting the immediate delivery of aid to earthquake victims in Haiti as part of operation Unified Response.

Operating a few miles off the coast of Haiti are USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70); USNS Comfort (T-AH-20); USS Normandy (CG 60); USS Bunker Hill (CG 52); USS Higgins (DDG 76); USS Underwood (FFG 36); USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51); and the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. The Bataan ARG includes embarked Marines of the 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43); USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).

In addition, Sailors from Maritime Civil Affairs, Maritime Security, Expeditionary Logistic Support, Seabee units, and Combat Camera, as well as other Navy divers and engineers are supporting disaster response efforts with diverse capabilities including assessment, construction, security, civil affairs and logistical support.

To date, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps forces supporting relief efforts have conducted 336 air deliveries, delivered 32,400 gallons of water, 532,440 bottles of water, 111,082 meals and 9,000 lbs of medical supplies. Most importantly, U.S. and international search and rescue teams have rescued 69 earthquake victims, mostly Haitian citizens.

Navy medical professionals aboard USNS Comfort received their first patients Jan. 20, delivered by a MH-60 "Knighthawk" helicopter from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the middle of the night. The two patients, a six-year-old boy and a 20-year old man injured in the earthquake, arrived aboard the ship shortly after 10 p.m.

USNS Comfort will provide full hospital services to support U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster response to the people of Haiti. Comfort comes with a full spectrum of hospital services to support disaster relief efforts including: primary, trauma, pediatric and orthopedic care services. The 894-foot long ship has six fully operational operating rooms. Comfort currently has a 250 acute care bed capacity and 40 ICU beds.

The Navy's contribution will be reinforced and expanded in the upcoming days with the arrival of the following units:

- USNS Henson (T-AGS-63), an oceanographic survey ship, and MV Alakai, a high speed ferry, are scheduled to arrive in the next few days.

- USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), a dry cargo ship with two SH-60S helicopters, and USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), a dry cargo ship capable of offloading cargo without a port are scheduled to arrive in the next week.

- The Nassau Amphibious Ready Group/24 Marine Expeditionary Unit (NAS ARG/24 MEU), including USS Nassau (LHD 4), USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), USS Ashland (LSD 48), and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are scheduled to arrive in the next week. (

- SS Cape May (T-AKR 5063), a heavy lift ship; USNS PFC Dewayne Williams (T-AK 3009), a container & roll-on/roll-off ship; and MV Huakai, a high speed ferry, are scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks.

Operation Unified Response is part of a larger U.S. response to a request from the government of Haiti for urgent humanitarian aid. U.S. Southern Command is working closely with the Dept. of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and the international community to aggressively provide life-sustaining services to the people of Haiti. All military efforts are in support of USAID, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission.

The last time the Navy supported U.S. disaster relief efforts in Haiti was in September 2008. After the island nation was hit by consecutive hurricanes and tropical storm, the amphibious ship USS Kearsarge was diverted to assist with the delivery of 3.3 million pounds of internationally-donated aid to communities isolated by flooding, mudslides and damaged roads.