PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (NNS) -- U.S. Northern Command is fully engaged with federal, state and local mission partners as the command provides support to the response efforts for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Northcom has begun search and rescue and damage assessment flights in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with six Navy helicopters and three U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft launched from the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group. Additionally, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, launched from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, is conducting an assessment of the damage in Puerto Rico.
Navy and Marine Corps forward ground elements also responded at first light today to assist with response and recovery operations. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is inserting a forward coordination element and air control element into St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, to help open the airfield and coordinate with the defense coordinating officer and National Guard at the joint force headquarters there. The 26th MEU will also insert an air control element in the airport at St. Thomas in order to help open the airfield, as Defense Department elements are focused on airfield assessments and opening runways to facilitate commodity distribution. Life saving and life sustaining efforts in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continue to be a top priority as well.
U.S. Transportation Command has postured C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft on three-hour alert to support quick movement of supplies and personnel to and from the affected area. DoD is also providing Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, as a FEMA incident support base and forward staging area.
Northcom's mission is to assist the lead federal relief agencies in aiding those affected by natural disasters to minimize suffering while continuing its mission of defending the U.S.