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Marines, Soldiers Arrive In Haiti As Navy Ships Prepare For Potential Hurricane Response Mission

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment load an Ohio Air National Guard C-130H Hercules in preparation to depart Kingston, Jamaica, for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort in response to Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 5, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment load an Ohio Air National Guard C-130H Hercules in preparation to depart Kingston, Jamaica, for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort in response to Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 5, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

More than 420 Marines on two Navy ships are preparing to head to the Caribbean if called upon to respond to Hurricane Matthew, and a portion of the Marine Corps unit working in Central America is already in Haiti.

About 100 Marines and soldiers arrived in Haiti Wednesday night with two Marine CH-53E Super Stallions, four Army UH-60 Black Hawks and three Army CH-47 Chinooks, U.S. Marine Corps Forces South spokesman Maj. Armando Daviu told USNI News. The Marines are part of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SP MAGTF) Southern Command, and the soldiers are from the Joint Task Force-Bravo, both headquartered at at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.

The Marines and soldiers have been unloading their equipment in Haiti and are expected to begin disaster relief operations tomorrow, Daviu said. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) began the early work of identifying the hardest hit areas and regions that have been cut off due to damaged bridges and roads, Daviu said. In Haiti, southern regions of the island nation have been completely cut off from the capital of Port-au-Prince, meaning military helicopters are the only way to reach residents there.

OFDA prepositioned aid supplies on the island before the storm hit, and the Marines and soldiers operating from near the Port-au-Prince airport will begin delivering the supplies tomorrow.

Amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) departs Naval Station Mayport in preparation of Hurricane Matthew's arrival onto Florida's eastern coast. US Navy photo.

Amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) departs Naval Station Mayport in preparation of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival onto Florida’s eastern coast. US Navy photo.

Meanwhile, depending on the damage the hurricane causes while passing through the Bahamas en route to Florida, the Navy and Marine Corps have readied two ships and 420 Marines. Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73) left Norfolk, Va., Tuesday with 171 Marines and five MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors in anticipation of being called upon for a humanitarian assistance mission, Marine Corps spokeswoman 1st Lt. Danielle Phillips told USNI News. Amphibious warship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) was set to leave yesterday with 250 Marines and three CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters. The Marines aboard these two ships come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Phillips said amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), which left Naval Station Mayport, Fla., to ride the storm out at sea, would replace Mesa Verde as the amphibious ship accompanying the aircraft carrier, if called upon, though it is unclear at this time whether the Marines already aboard Mesa Verde would fly to Iwo Jima or if different Marines would deploy instead.

Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Clark Carpenter added that the 24th MEU Marines who boarded Mesa Verde primarily came from the engineer and logistics community.

So far Haiti is the only country that has requested assistance through the U.S. State Department and USAID, SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Kurt Tidd said in a press conference yesterday, according to a press release.

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment load an Ohio Air National Guard C-130H Hercules in preparation to depart their prepositioned location of Kingston, Jamaica, for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort in response to Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 5, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment load an Ohio Air National Guard C-130H Hercules in preparation to depart their prepositioned location of Kingston, Jamaica, for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort in response to Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 5, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

Daviu said the SP MAGTF Southern Command was created with hurricane response in mind. The group deployed for the first time last year from June through November with active component Marines, and this year’s hurricane season deployment brought together reservists from multiple states. While the aviation component flew to Haiti to assist in the disaster relief mission there, engineers are still in Honduras building schools and a hospital in remote regions of that country, and other Marines from the MAGTF are elsewhere in Central America training partner militaries on counter-trafficking and other missions. Daviu said the 300-Marine force spread out in five countries is doing exactly what it was designed to do – responding to crises and supporting partner nations.

SOUTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Bravo consists of about 600 U.S. servicemen and women and about 600 American and Honduran civilians at Soto Cano Air Base. “JTF-Bravo organizes multilateral exercises and supports, in cooperation with our partner nations, counter transnational organized crime, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, and building partner capacities to promote regional cooperation and security in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America,” according to the JTF’s website.

  • Ed L

    As much money America has put into Haiti since 1917? Why does America just make Haiti a protector or a terrority of the United States. Twice why being down at Gitmo for refresher training we went to Haiti for liberity. I went ashore the first time for 4 hours and 3 beers later was back on the ship. The second time I didn’t go ashore. Such a poor place.

    • Donald Carey

      America has no interest in taking on the basket case of the Caribbean (we occupied Haiti back in 1917) and, when I was in Port-au-Prince back in the early ’70’s, their money was backed up with U.S. dollars (it was on their bills, in very fine print).
      As for sending Marines and Soldiers, what the Haitians need most is Seabees.

      • Curtis Conway

        We could grow sugar beets and make ethanol down there. There is bauxite in Jamaica. I wonder is any is on the Dominican Republic?

        • Stephen

          Gold, just don’t tell anybody…

          • Donald Carey

            The Clintons know….As for ethanol, that is a con to start with – it takes more energy to make it than it saves.

  • Curtis Conway

    One would think the Dominican Republic would ask.

    • Donald Carey

      They asked to become part of the U.S. in in 1869 – the U.S. Senate rejected their request by 1 vote. Perhaps they still resent that.

      • Stephen

        The French granted their freedom after charging a couple million dollars. They had no money; they still have nothing. We could make a difference if we invest the time & effort. They have a 4-star resort in Labadee. Outside investment. They need two main roads & steel-reinforced construction standards. Clean water & power provided by ships, until permanent facilities are built.

        • Donald Carey

          I take it you are talking about Haiti (my post was about the Dominican Republic).
          Haiti is most hindered by their French culture of corruption bequeathed by the French Crown – second only to the culture of corruption from Spain that afflicts the former Spanish colonies (not that Brazil is all that different). Until that is fixed, Haiti will be a bottomless pit to throw aid money into.

          • Stephen

            The French Crown was already in a basket… Matthew has devastated Haiti; we need to step in & fix this mess. The SeaBees have a proven record of establishing beach-heads, air-strips & structures in remote locales. This is our backyard.

          • Donald Carey

            The French revolution did nothing to change the corrupt culture already in Haiti. As for the Seabees, I think roads and bridges should be their first priority.

  • Stephen

    Excellent emergency response, complete the job with SeaBee construction team. When emergency responders leave, poverty & disease fill the vacuum. The Joint Force, working with the SeaBees could put Haiti on its feet. Steel-reinforced concrete block for housing, schools & community centers…

  • Fred Jones

    Wow Amazing – our hero forces are already in action to save Haiti from this nightmare. I wonder if we could help them get an infrastructure in place to prevent this in the future.