The United States has sent troops, aircraft and ships to provide disaster relief assistance to Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The Navy and Marines are working from the USS Mesa Verde, (LPD-19).
Joint Task Force Matthew arrives in Haiti to provide relief efforts
Story by Capt. Tyler Hopkins
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South
U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command, along with members of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 5, 2016, to help facilitate disaster relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
The personnel of Joint Task Force Matthew began planning efforts at Soto Cano Air Base once the storm appeared as if it would make landfall in the Caribbean. JTF Matthew planned for a rapid departure and made sure they had the ability to get to affected areas as quickly as possible if requested and to help as many people as possible.
“A response like this takes the entire team to provide timely aid to those most affected” according to Maj. Rick Childers, the Joint Task Force – Bravo engineer assigned to JTF Matthew. Childers will facilitate coordination through JTF Matthew and U.S. Southern Command for the response and potential infrastructure assessments in affected areas, if requested.
Once approved, U.S. Southern Command directed JTF Matthew and SPMAGTF-SC to pre-position on the Grand Cayman Islands. By doing so, JTF Matthew was in a unique position to respond and provide relief efforts quickly after receiving the request from USAID.
“Having the approval and the ability to pre-position our assets was absolutely critical,” stated Col. Thomas Prentice, commanding officer, SPMAGTF-SC. “In the aftermath of any natural disaster, military capabilities are desperately needed in the early stages of relief operations. By staging in the Cayman Islands and refueling in Jamaica, we were able to arrive on the ground within hours of receiving the request for assistance.”
JTF Matthew departed Honduras’ Soto Cano Air Base and brings with them CH-53E Super Stallion, CH-47 Chinook, and UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. These vertical take-off assets will prove critical in gaining access to areas that are otherwise unreachable. Their focus will be to provide heavy lift support to ongoing U.S. disaster assistance missions in the country.