ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- When Florida National Guardsman Maj. Sam Sargeant checked aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), it took him a little bit to adjust to the rolling decks and knee knockers.
But he took on the challenge of navigating his way around the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship because his fellow Floridians needed him.
Sargeant embarked Iwo Jima Sept. 12 for four days to help coordinate missions ashore and track movements of people and relief supplies as they made their way through Monroe County as part of Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Units of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) supported recovery efforts Sept. 12 to Sept. 16. The Navy-Marine Corps team, working as Commander Task Force (CTF) 181, under the command of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and with state and local officials until civilian authorities and the Florida National Guard could take over long-term recovery operations.
Sargeant's job was as liaison officer between Joint Task Force (JTF) Florida and CTF 181.
"Coming to Iwo was a great opportunity to learn from the Sailors and Marines and vice versa, providing that info for a better team," said the 19-year veteran from Lakeland, Fla.
While it was not his first time working with an amphibious ready group in similar operations, this was his first time aboard a naval vessel.
"Being on [Iwo Jima] provides a much clearer understanding of what the ARG brings to the table," he said.
Maintaining situational awareness, understanding the capabilities available and projecting events as far as 48 hours out were his principal concerns during his time aboard, he said.
Sargeant added that, even with differences in technique between his Army training and the Navy's way of doing things, all the efforts were for the same cause and he was happy to see all the work synced up.
Cmdr. Mike Desmond, CTF 181 operations officer, worked closely with Sargeant during his time on board. He said the major's contribution to the coordination effort had a profound, positive impact on the mission.
"Sam was an instrumental part of the Operations team," said Desmond. "[He was] an experienced professional. His unique perspective allowed us to quickly align with the other organizations involved in Hurricane Irma response. With him here, we more efficiently aligned our efforts with those of local officials, FEMA, and the Florida National Guard. He definitely helped make this mission a success."
"Integrating as a team in DSCA efforts was crucial for the Keys. It takes many people to maneuver everything and having the Navy allowed us to get here quicker, and, gave us a presence in the community," Sargeant said. "Having that integration with JTF-Florida also made a huge difference in allowing us to get ground forces in place."
Units supporting the mission under CTF 181 included Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 4; the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56); Explosive Ordinance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 2; Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22; Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 8; 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461; Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 28; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28; Fleet Survey Team; Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2; Naval Beach Group (NBG) 2; Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2; Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2; and Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202 det. Jacksonville.
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