ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- U.S. Navy helicopters operating from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) rescued two American citizens in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Jan. 15.
An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, from the "Tridents" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 responded to a MEDEVAC call from the Air Force 23rd Special Tactics Squadron. An Air Force pararescueman (PR) on the scene had just freed a man from the rubble of the Hotel Montana, but his legs below the knee were lost. The helicopter's aircrew airlifted the man to USS Carl Vinson for emergency medical care. Vinson doctors treated his injuries. The man is in stable condition in the ship's medical ward.
Carl Vinson responded to a second distress call a couple of hours later, sending an MH-60 Knighthawk from the "Chargers" of HSC-26 to evacuate an American woman. The woman, a 55-year old Christian missionary, said a wall collapsed on top of her when the earthquake struck. She is also in stable condition, undergoing further evaluation by Navy doctors aboard the carrier.
"It looks as though our aircrews may have saved lives," said Rear. Adm. Ted Branch, Commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and Task Force 41, the U.S. Navy's sea-based humanitarian support mission of Haiti.
While Carl Vinson and the destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) were supporting helicopter operations in support of Joint Task Force Haiti, several U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command ships sortied to sail to Haiti to assist in the relief operation. The dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) departed Morehead City, N.C., Jan. 15 while the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) got underway Jan. 16. The three ships were in North Carolina to onload a Marine force configured for humanitarian support. The ships, which have embarked helicopters, landing craft and robust medical capabilities, will comprise a "sea base" around the island from which further relief operations can be staged.
"I'm pleased with the tremendous response by both the Navy and Marine Corps in the flow of forces to Haiti," said Rear Adm. Victory Guillory, Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet. "The Carl Vinson, with its speed and flexibility, along with the Higgins and other units that were in the area, are the perfect first responders. They're providing critical help when it's needed most. Very soon, we'll have our sea base in place-the right ships with the right capabilities for sustained relief operations from the sea."
Other ships on the way to assist in the operation are the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 41), the cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), the frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36), the rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (ARS 51) and the oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson (T-AGS 63). Additionally, several auxiliary ships from the Military Sealift Command (MSC) are en route and will provide fuel and supplies to sustain the Navy force at sea throughout the operation.
U.S. Southern Command is well-versed in providing humanitarian assistance to the region. Since 2005, the command has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008. During that mission, U.S. military forces airlifted 3.3 million pounds of aid to communities that were devastated by a succession of major storms.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.