USS Iwo Jima Stands Ready to Assist in Haiti

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2010 — USS Iwo Jima, a Wasp-class amphibi­ous assault ship, stands ready off the south­ern coast of Haiti to assist with dis­as­ter relief sup­port, if request­ed, as a result of Hur­ri­cane Tomas.

Any assis­tance to the gov­ern­ment of Haiti would be pro­vid­ed in coor­di­na­tion with the Unit­ed Nations Sta­bi­liza­tion Mis­sion under the direc­tion of the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment.

The USS Iwo Jima is on a four-month human­i­tar­i­an and civic assis­tance deploy­ment called Con­tin­u­ing Promise 2010 in sup­port of U.S. South­ern Com­mand, bring­ing health care and oth­er ser­vices to com­mu­ni­ties in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean.

“This is exact­ly why we have Con­tin­u­ing Promise mis­sions out here,” Navy Capt. Thomas Negus, com­modore of Con­tin­u­ing Promise 2010, told blog­gers and online jour­nal­ists dur­ing a “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table today. “It unique­ly helps us to be pre­pared for sit­u­a­tions like this. I saw this first­hand how pre­vi­ous mis­sions helped to save thou­sands of lives since the [Jan. 12] earth­quake [in Haiti].”

Iwo Jima was near Suri­name, the last of eight Con­tin­u­ing Promise 2010 port vis­its, when the call came to sup­port pos­si­ble relief efforts.

The U.S. military’s “unique capa­bil­i­ty” is to pro­vide rapid response assis­tance until able to tran­si­tion tasks to oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, Negus said. “Our sec­ond mis­sion has always been to be pre­pared for any nat­ur­al dis­as­ters in the region while we are out here,” he added.

Negus said Iwo Jima brings a “tremen­dous spread of capa­bil­i­ty” to assist the U.N. and USAID.

“The great capa­bil­i­ty that Con­tin­u­ing Promise pro­vides is the rapid response we are able to sup­port to a larg­er U.N. and USAID effort,” Negus said. “We have plans — as soon as the storm clears and it is safe to do so based on weath­er con­straints and day­light — to fly over the south­ern penin­su­la of Haiti.”

The ship is off the south­ern coast of Haiti to pro­vide logis­tic sup­port to the mis­sion and will assist with mov­ing pre­vi­ous­ly stock­piled sup­plies to the need­ed loca­tions in Haiti, Negus said. Though they would be able to deliv­er all of the pre-staged items if required, he added, cur­rent weath­er reports indi­cate that the effects from the storm will be con­fined to a rel­a­tive­ly small area.

“I am antic­i­pat­ing and hop­ing that it is much more local­ized,” Negus said. “Cur­rent reports in [the Hait­ian cap­i­tal of] Port-au-Prince are trend­ing that way.”

Negus added that all of their relief efforts will be in con­cert with U.N. and USAID relief efforts. “We are focused on the mis­sion we have been asked to sup­port, which is storm assis­tance and recov­ery,” said Negus.

Iwo Jima brings a tremen­dous capa­bil­i­ty to the mis­sion, Negus said, includ­ing 10 heli­copters, two land­ing craft and upwards of 200 med­ical per­son­nel, as well as an engi­neer­ing detach­ment that could assist with engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion capa­bil­i­ties and assess­ments, as well as civ­il affairs per­son­nel from the Navy and Marine Corps. An addi­tion­al com­po­nent to the team is a 500-strong Spe­cial Pur­pose Marine Air Ground Task Force.

Negus said the great­est asset a ship pro­vides to the mis­sion is the flex­i­bil­i­ty to stand ready to assist and the capac­i­ty for part­ner­ships with a vari­ety of resources. He added that as soon as the storm clears, his crew would begin “imme­di­ate life­sav­ing and look­ing for iso­lat­ed pop­u­la­tions that might be cut off by crashed bridges or flood­ed roads.”

His pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence as com­modore in Con­tin­u­ing Promise 2009 and the after­math of Haiti’s Jan­u­ary earth­quake have pre­pared him to respond to sit­u­a­tions where human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance is required, Negus said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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