Amphibious transport dock Arlington — along with with hundreds of sailors and Marines — is now in Haiti to support disaster relief in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake.
The Arlington left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, on Aug. 17 with Fleet Surgical Team 2 aboard to help provide victims of the natural disaster advanced medical capabilities. The Navy said such capabilities include operating room staff who can offer surgical support, an intensive care unit team, and behavioral health providers, among other things.
“Our initial focus is to concentrate on saving lives while alleviating suffering for the people of Haiti,” Capt. Eric Kellum, commanding officer of the Arlington, said in a Navy news release. “Assisting those in need due to a natural disaster is something this team is trained and ready to do. Our presence here demonstrates our nation’s commitment to supporting our partners in this part of the world.”
Embarked on the ship are Marines from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, who have been tasked with administering “lifesaving and humanitarian assistance support,” and two MH-60S helicopters that can carry personnel and supplies. Eight other helicopters from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay are also providing support for the newly established Joint Task Force-Haiti.
So far, the task force has completed 204 missions, saved 335 people, and delivered over 88,000 pounds of vital aid, according to an Aug. 22 update from SOUTHCOM.
Adm. Craig Faller, SOUTHCOM’s commander, said the U.S. military started sending assistance less than 24 hours after the earthquake, including sending U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft to gather aerial images of areas damaged from the earthquake. A 14-person situational awareness team from Special Operations Command South was also sent to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince to help assess the damage.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of Joint Task Force-Haiti, visited the site of the earthquake’s epicenter on Saturday.
The magnitude 7.2 earthquake destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged more than 12,000, leaving about 30,000 families homeless, according to official estimates. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency most recent update said more than 2,200 have died as a result.
Schools, offices and churches also were demolished or badly damaged by the earthquake, and the Caribbean nation’s southwest region was the hardest hit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.