PORT-AU'-PRINCE, Republic of Haiti -- Elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, along with sailors from Expeditionary Strike Group 2, disembarked from USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) Sunday to assess storm damage to the Republic of Haiti’s infrastructure and provide initial capabilities for future disaster relief efforts.
Haiti requested assistance from the United States after the Category IV storm, Hurricane Matthew, tore through the region causing severe flooding and displacing citizens here already struggling from a massive 7.6 earthquake in 2010 and recent epidemics of water and mosquito-borne illnesses.
Approximately 300 Marines began the journey here less than a week ago, armed with food, water and medical supplies to assist U.S. Southern Command, which has a Special Purpose Marine task force based in Honduras. An additional 500 Marines, aboard the USS Iwo Jima, are nearing the Haitian coast to accompany the Mesa Verde and provide follow-on sustainment capabilities. The task force’s primary mission centers on responding to government requests for aid in parts of Central and South America, which has a higher operational tempo during hurricane season.
“While most organizations would take weeks just to organize an effort like this, it has taken the MEU only a few days,” said Lt. Col. Ralph Hershfelt, executive officer for the 24th MEU.
The role of the 24th MEU and the amphibious ships involved during this operation is to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities to deliver assistance and aid to areas the government of Haiti deems necessary.
The Marines and Sailors will work in coordination with USAID, the government of Haiti, other international partners and non-governmental organizations to provide relief to the people of Haiti as requested by their government.
“Our main concern is to rapidly reduce the suffering of the victims of Hurricane Matthew and provide a stable platform for follow-on forces from the MEU to operate from during this operation, said Hershfelt. Our Marines and sailors are extremely motivated to help the people of Haiti in whatever way is needed the most. With many affected areas of Haiti so close to the coast, we bring the unique ability to operate simultaneously from the sea, ashore and in the air.”
The 24th MEU is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units operating globally. Each MEU is equipped for a variety of missions focused on rapid crisis response. Each MEU consists of a command element, air assets, land assets and logistical capability allowing expeditionary amphibious delivery of approximately 2,500 Marines anywhere in the world within hours.