U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the Navy are supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to Hurricane Irma as it moves through the Caribbean towards Florida by deploying multiple vessels.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday, which were previously hit by the storm, and medium and heavy lift helicopters from LHD-1 are conducting medical evacuations and conduct damage assessment for the government.
The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) are also en route to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to aid emergency work after helping early recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey’s damage to Texas
The three ships combined have three Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom helicopters, three Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, five Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys, and nine Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. U.S. Transportation Command is also providing a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to help relocate hospital patients from the damaged sole hospital on St. Thomas to the less damaged and more southern island of St. Croix.
The Defense Department said General Lor Robinson, commander of NORTHCOM is the lead for the department's domestic response to the hurricane, which includes territories like the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The Navy said the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD-21) are also preparing to provide additional support to U.S. territory. They departed Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sept. 5 and received an onload in Norfolk, Va. of over 300 Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command also ordered the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) to get underway on Friday to be in a position to provide further humanitarian relief in support of federal, state, and local authorities if requested.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) was already underway by Friday conducting local operations and was ordered to join the group consisting of CVN-72, LHD-7, and LPD-21.
These four ships combined have four CH-53E Marine heavy lift helicopters, 10 MH-60S, and 14 MH-60R Navy medium lift helicopters.
Separately, other ships homeported at Naval Station Mayport were made ready to head to sea as a precautionary measure. On Wednesday the USS Shamal (PC-13) a Cyclone-class patrol ship, USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), and USCG Tahoma (WPG-80) Coast Guard Cutter went out to sea.
On Thursday the USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser,) and USS Lassen (DDG-82) also departed the station.
The Navy said the USS Hue City (CG-66), USS Tornado (PC-14) and USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) would be moved to a safe haven location and made ready for heavy weather. While the USS Detroit (LCS-7) and USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) were to remain in port and will be heavy weather moored.
Naval Station Mayport said its decision “is based on concerns for the safety of Sailors and preservation of the ships and associated equipment.”
It also noted ships can remain safe at sea by avoiding the storm and having ships underway ensures they are ready to respond for any additional national tasking.