NORFOLK (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) along with more than 500 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will get underway today from Norfolk, headed for Haiti to support Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) missions in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
Iwo Jima will ultimately relieve USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), which is due to arrive in Haiti early tomorrow. LHDs are currently the largest amphibious ships in the world and will bring enhanced capabilities to the relief effort. Resources currently embarked aboard Mesa Verde, including aircraft, landing craft, Marines and the Navy and Marine Corps command elements, will cross-deck to Iwo Jima and remain on station in Haiti to support continued operations.
Iwo Jima and the MEU conducted a two-day onload at Naval Station Norfolk totaling nearly 225 pallets of supplies, including 800 cases of bottled water, in preparation to help people in the aftermath of one of the largest storms to hit the area in years.
The ship also embarked four additional aircraft and two Landing Craft Utility boats adept at accessing fouled beaches.
USS Iwo Jima Commanding Officer, Capt. James Midkiff, lauded the Sailors' and Marines' ability to conduct the on load in a swift fashion and their ability to be ready to help those in need, even while their own families were experiencing the powerful storm at the ship's homeport in Mayport, Fla.
"Events like this exemplify the talent and strengths of our military services and how flexible and responsive we can be in a time of crisis" said Midkiff. "Everything we have done since departing our homeport is designed to get ready and provide support to those in need, and I think we have done exactly that. We are prepared and honored to have the opportunity to help out our friends and neighbors in the western hemisphere."
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.
"The same capabilities that make us a dominant military force also allow us the ability to provide critically-needed assistance and humanitarian aid," said Lt. Col. Christopher D. Hafer, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 24, speaking on behalf of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "We are able to work alongside the various U.S. government agencies experienced in providing disaster relief to ensure relief supplies, equipment and manpower get to where they are most needed."
During relief operations, embarked landing craft are used to transport equipment and aid to populated areas inaccessible by land.
Matthew first made landfall in southern Haiti, sustaining winds of up to 145 mph before moving on to cause damage in the Bahamas and the U.S.