SANTIAGO, Chile (NNS) -- A U.S. Navy assessment team composed of 12 Sailors and civilians completed a five-day assessment of needed repairs for a local shipyard and naval base in Talcahuano, Chile.
The location, which is near the epicenter of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred Feb. 27, was damaged by both the earthquake and resulting tsunami.
The team was sent at the request of the government of Chile to work alongside the Chilean Navy. Members of the team work at various logistics, diving and salvage, medical, engineering, communications and survey team commands.
"This team was put together on short notice with the expertise the Chilean Navy had requested," said Capt. Joe Newbury, the assessment team leader from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. "We integrated quickly into the Chilean Navy's ongoing assessment efforts to provide a fresh set of eyes and draw from our past experiences with natural disasters."
Some members of the team had previously trained with the Chilean Navy, and the deployment was an opportunity for them to build upon those bonds.
"It was a pleasure to work alongside my previous instructor from the Chilean Navy," said Lt. Jeanette Sheets, who previously served a two-year tour as an exchange officer studying hydrography with the Chilean Navy. "And though I wish it could have been under better circumstances, I am honored we could be here to help."
Though the towns nearby were hit hard by the natural disaster, members of the team noted the resilience and resourcefulness of the Chilean people.
"Everyone is working together to get this area back to pre-earthquake conditions," said Newbury. "The shops in the shipyard are having competitions to see who will get back on line first, and the local community members have rallied to clean up. Every day about 150 Chilean Sailors pick up shovels and brooms and go out to help clean up in the community."
Members of the assessment team witnessed firsthand the progress going on in the vicinity of the shipyard and naval base during their brief stay.
"The streets look drastically different from when we arrived. The first night we could only see a few street lights in the distance. Every night after that more lights would be on, until finally on our last night the trail of street lights led all the way to the naval base," said Newbury. "The organized way in which the Chileans are managing the disaster recovery efforts is admirable."
The Navy assessment team was part of a larger response by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to provide military assistance to earthquake relief efforts at the request of the Chilean government. Other military involvement included two U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, supporting an air bridge of relief supplies between Santiago and Concepcion, and an Expeditionary Medical Support team. All military operations are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission.
Commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) is the naval component command for SOUTHCOM and is responsible for all naval personnel and assets in the area of focus. NAVSO conducts a variety of missions in support of the Maritime Strategy, including theater security cooperation, relationship building, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, community relations and counter-illicit trafficking operations.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.