MIAMI (NNS) -- U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has directed the U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) to transit towards Haiti, where it will join Joint Task Force Matthew disaster relief operations.
The ship will have three embarked CH-53E Super Stallion, one landing craft and 300 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The airlift and transport capabilities of amphibious ships make them uniquely suited to support the delivery and distribution of much-needed relief supplies, as well as transport humanitarian assistance personnel in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.
During relief operations, embarked landing craft are used to transport equipment and aid to populated areas inaccessible by land due to the impact of natural disasters.
On Oct. 5, U.S. Southern Command established Joint Task Force Matthew to oversee U.S. military relief efforts in Haiti. The task force was deployed to Haiti in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) following a request for U.S. assistance from the government of Haiti.
At present, the task force has approximately 170 personnel and nine helicopters in Haiti. The helicopters are scheduled to begin flight operations in support of USAID-led relief operations Oct. 7.
On Oct. 7, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon is also scheduled to conduct aerial assessments of areas in Haiti impacted by the storm to support disaster assessment experts on the ground.
More information about the task force's relief operations in Haiti will be released as soon as it is available and confirmed.
Historically, U.S. military capabilities are needed most in the critical early stages of a disaster relief operation, when fewer resources, capabilities and disaster-response experts are available to help victims and impacted communities. As those disaster-relief missions progress and more experienced experts arrive to aid longer-term recovery and reconstruction, U.S. military capabilities are no longer requested, and roles previously performed by military units are assumed by other, more experienced relief organizations.
Over the last several years, SOUTHCOM has provided disaster assistance to Haiti to help the Caribbean nation prepare for storms like Hurricane Matthew and other natural disasters, including the construction of emergency operations centers, disaster relief warehouses, fire stations and community centers that double as shelters. The command has also donated search and rescue boats, as well as transport vehicles to Haitian emergency response and civil protection agencies.
SOUTHCOM is one of the nation's six geographically-focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
To view video and photos of U.S. relief operations in Haiti, visit www.dvidshub.net/search?q=%22hurricane+matthew%22
To learn more about the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), visit www.usaid.gov/