(US Navy photo)
We have seen the images before. Military members arrive at the scene of a catastrophic event to deliver food, water, medical supplies and hope to innocent civilians. Sometimes the effort is here in the United States; more often it takes place in another country. It is in the latter case that the unique, “reach out and touch” capabilities of the military literally translates to the saving of human lives.
When news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti came to light, the first to respond was the Coast Guard. Unencumbered by the need to draft and issue Execute Orders, coupled with the fact that its vessels routinely operate in the vicinity, the Coast Guard moved quickly. The morning after the quake hit, a Coast Guard cutter was sitting off Port-Au-Prince. Within twenty-four hours, three cutters were there, and Coast Guard helicopters had already begun evacuation of injured personnel. (See Admiral Allen’s comments at the Surface Navy Association’s Symposium.)
The Navy and Marine Corps also responded with a massive relief effort, all coordinated through SOUTHCOM, and in cooperation with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
At the bottom of this article, you can read the article from the Navy News Service a to get a feel for the scope of the Navy/Marine Corps effort.
Before you read that (because the statistics can be pretty overwhelming) I would like to make a point. It is the same point I have made many times before. When the world is collapsing around you, when chaos abounds and hopelessness becomes your overwhelming emotion; is there any sight more inspiring than the unmistakable silhouette of a Coast Guard or Navy ship materializing in the early morning dawn? Imagine the feelings a desperate Haitian experiences when the Marines arrive with food, water, and emergency supplies. The other services are there too, of course. Their effect is the same.
The U.S. military represents more than power projection or unequaled wartime superiority.
It represents hope.
This is a portion of an article released by the Defense Media Activity Anacostia giving a summary of the Navy and Marine Corps effort in Haiti.
“USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Higgins (DDG 76), USS Normandy (CG 60), USS Underwood (FFG 36), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) and USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), are on station in the vicinity of Haiti in support of host nation, U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) efforts to conduct Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief operations in order to prevent human suffering and additional loss of life.
USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) are en route Haiti with embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU 22) and are expected to arrive Jan. 18. In addition, USS Gunston Hall (LSD 41) has been diverted to Haiti and also is scheduled to arrive Jan. 18. These amphibious platforms will form a “sea base” from which humanitarian supplies can be moved ashore via helicopters and landing craft. Bataan also has robust medical facility that includes nearly 50 medical professionals as well as X-ray facilities, a 600-bed hospital, operating rooms, an intensive care unit, pharmacy and laboratory.
Approximately 1,480 U.S. military personnel are supporting Operation Unified Response on the ground in Haiti. Approximately 4,400 additional U.S. military personnel are supporting from U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels operating in Haitian waters.
The following numbers provide a glimpse of the impact these service members are making:
– More than 2,000 American citizens have been evacuated to Orlando, Fla., Homestead Air Force Base (AFB), Fla., or McGuire AFB, Pa.
– Maritime forces have distributed 20,160 rations of food since Tuesday.
-USS Carl Vinson delivered more than 30 pallets of relief supplies for distribution to affect areas Saturday. Nineteen helicopters embarked on the carrier are also flying airlift missions in support of relief efforts.
– More than 100,000 bottles of water were delivered Sunday. With water being one of the most precious commodities, the focus continues to be on taking advantage of every opportunity to bring water ashore.
– USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) received seven injured Haitian civilians at approximately 7:30 p.m. EST Saturday when a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60J Jayhawk helicopter on a MEDEVAC mission was forced to divert due to weather. The helicopter was taking the earthquake victims from Port-Au-Prince to a hospital near Cap-Haïtien Cape Haitien on the island’s northern coast. USS Carl Vinson medical personnel are currently treating the seven Haitians, including a one-two-hourday old infant.
– USS Higgins (DDG 76), homeported in San Diego, is providing afloat logistical services for the Coast Guard helicopters.
– USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), a dry cargo ship 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.
– USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), homeported in Baltimore, Md., got underway Jan. 16 and is making best course and speed to the area and is expected to arrive in the area in the next three days. USNS Comfort’s primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare. Comfort’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide. The ship comes with approximately 600 medical personnel and an expanded 1,000-bed hospital facility.
– On Jan. 14, Comfort the ship was in a scheduled maintenance availability. In the course of 72 hours, the Military Sealift command transformed an industrial shipboard site into an up and ready mobile naval hospital, fully staffed and equipped with the most up-to-date medical technology, ready to provide medical care to our neighbors in desperate need in Haiti.
– USNS Comfort, a 894-foot long ship, has a full spectrum of hospital services to support disaster relief efforts. Comfort has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and has four X-rays, one CAT scan unit, an MRI unit, a dental suite, a pharmacy and an optometry and lens laboratory. The ship also maintains up to 5,000 units of blood and can serve as many as 1,000 patients.
– Navy P-3 Orion aircraft are conducting aerial surveys of the area affected by the earthquake.
– Sailors from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Combat Camera, Maritime Civil Affairs, Maritime Security, Expeditionary Logistic Support and Seabee units, as well as other Navy divers and engineers are supporting disaster response efforts and bring a diverse capability including assessment, construction, security, civil affairs and logistical support.
– Various units are prepared to provide assistance with sea-based helicopters, to include H-53 Sea Stallions and H-60 Seahawks.
Another big part of the maritime relief effort is to start the rebuilding of port facilities near the Haitian capital. USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), a rescue and salvage ship with embarked FBI dive team arrived Jan. 17 to conduct surveys and assessments necessary to repair the port. This effort will be reinforced by USNS Henson (T-AGS-63), an oceanographic survey ship, and USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), which are scheduled to arrive Jan. 20. Additionally, USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), a dry cargo ship, and USNS Sumner (T-AGS-61), an oceanographic survey ship, are scheduled to arrive Jan 22. USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), a dry cargo ship, is scheduled to arrive Jan. 21.
USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198), a replenishment oiler, is supporting the effort by refueling the ships.”
The men and women involved in Operation Unified Response are our heroes of the week.