Kearsarge Delivers International Aid in Haiti
KEARSARGE (AFPS) — Aerial delivery of relief supplies to Haiti
began from USS Kearsarge Sept. 8, as three helicopters launched
from the flight deck to transport food and water to areas suffering from the
after-effects of tropical storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna and Hurricane Ike.
Southern Command directed the U.S. 4th Fleet to divert the amphibious ship
from its humanitarian and civic assistance mission in Colombia to assist
the U.S. Agency for International Development in mitigating human suffering
and loss of life, officials said.
Helicopter crews and ground support personnel directed distribution
and loaded relief supplies. On the first day of operations, pilots
from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 flew two relief missions
to Jeremie, delivering 12 metric tons of pre-packaged food such
as flour, beans, rice and high-energy biscuits from the World
Kearsarge sailors went ashore at the distribution center and
integrated with other agencies in Port au Prince to assist with
the palletizing and loading of supplies on to the helicopters.
Pilots also conducted site surveys for Gonavies, but severe weather
conditions prevented surveys of Jacmel and Les Cayes for at least
"The circumstances that bring us here are unfortunate,
but it is fortunate we are here," Navy Capt. Fernandez "Frank" Ponds
said after taking an aerial tour and witnessing some of the devastation
of the areas firsthand. "The unique capabilities that Kearsarge
brings with it will ensure that help and aid reaches people quickly."
Three storms in three weeks have left hundreds of thousands
in desperate need of food, clean water and shelter. The town
of Gonaives was the hardest-hit by the tropical storms, leaving
much of the city under water.
Three landing-craft vessels were sent to retrieve supplies from
Port au Prince for early distribution the next day to Gonavies.
"Delivering the supplies from the World Food Program gave
me a sense that we are restoring hope, that hopefully wasn’t
completely swept away by the storms," said Navy Ensign Chris
Loper, who assisted with the delivery of supplies to Jeremie.
The objective of delivering emergency relief supplies, which
included vegetable oil, beans and rice, much of which was provided
by Canada to the World Food Program and USAID’s Office of Foreign
Disaster Assistance, is to help local governments and relief
organizations achieve self-sufficiency as they rebuild from the
destruction, officials said.
Kearsarge is in the Caribbean supporting Phase 2 of Continuing
Promise 2008, a humanitarian assistance mission that includes
helping partner nations affected by natural disasters and other
Any U.S. military assistance to a foreign nation must be requested
by the host nation through the U.S. ambassador, officials explained.
Then, as the lead federal agent, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance fields the request and asks the Defense Department
for military assistance, if needed.