USS Fort McHenry Completes Haiti Mission

Monday, March 15, 2010
Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

The USS Fort McHenry arrived in Haiti Jan. 18, six days after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean nation. The Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship's Sailors and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provided critical medical, distribution, rubble removal and construction assistance during Operation Unified Response.

The ship provided over 3,500 pounds of medical aid and the medical team treated 850 patients, both on the ship and ashore, working alongside several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Lifeline Ministries Clinic, Christianville Ministries, Cardinal Ledger Hospital and New Missions.

"The severity of the injuries and the circumstances we were working under was challenging, but made me want to be a better corpsman," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW) Amber Vega.

The ship flew 44 days of air operations and offloaded 22 pallets of lumber and 215 pallets of food and water. The crew distributed these supplies to earthquake victims, primarily in the Leogane, Grand Goave, Petit Goave and Carrefour areas of Haiti.

Elements of the 22nd MEU assisted efforts ashore from the sea-base of Navy ships.

"The Marines were happy to be part of this tremendous, international relief mission," said Capt. Binford Strickland, from the 22nd MEU. "Working with the NGOs, U.N. security forces and other partners, and more importantly, working with and helping the Haitian people was a great experience during their time of need."

The 22nd MEU is an amphibious, multimission capable force comprised of aviation and ground combat elements.

Fort McHenry deployed to Haiti as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. Other ships included USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), as well as detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 15, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Assault Craft Unit 4 and Beachmaster Unit 2.

"This crew inspired me," said Cmdr. Nate Moyer, Fort McHenry's commanding officer. "Each department worked seamlessly, focused on one mission: humanitarian aid to our Haitian neighbors."

Fort McHenry is homeported at Naval Station Little Creek, Va.

As the Navy component command of U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command's (NAVSO) mission is to direct U.S. Naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment.

In support of Operation Unified Response, NAVSO is tasked to coordinate the U.S. Navy's response to disaster relief in Haiti, following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12. The focus of Operation Unified Response is to alleviate the suffering of survivors and support humanitarian relief efforts.

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