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Navy shines following dual natural disasters of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

 

In the wake of two at-sea collisions this year, followed by the firing of the 7th Fleet’s Commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the United States Navy is now showing what it is really made of.  The Navy has literally provided floating infrastructure as Harvey swallowed up the Texas coastline and Irma blew the  walls down in the Caribbean Islands.

The Navy as well as the Coast Guard became first responders in Texas; they arrived with air support and ground troops to rescue people left stranded by epic flooding.  U.S.S. Kearsarge and U.S.S. Oak Hill arrived with food, water, military surgical teams, communications teams, and maintenance personnel.

And then Hurricane Irma struck the U.S. Virgin Islands, Key West, and northern parts of Florida. The Navy immediately queued the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Iwo Jima, the aircraft carrier U.S.S Abraham Lincoln, and redirected Oak Hill and Kearsarge to the hardest hit areas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Abraham Lincoln has been purifying and desalinating sea water with sailors dropping pallets of five-gallon containers, via aircraft, over the Keys.

Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 202 are performing route clearance on the island of St. John.

The Navy has also deployed sailors as security forces to St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix to protect hurricane survivors from marauding thieves and looters following the largest recorded hurricane in the region.  Hurricane Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph for the bigger part of 37 hours.

Infrastructure in the U.S. territory of the Virgin Islands has always been fragile.  Highways were constructed in St. Thomas and St. John by the U.S. Navy in 1917.  They have been repaired but not improved in the last one-hundred years.

U.S. troops continue to arrive in Caribbean with food, water and security forces

 

All branches of the United States military began arriving in the Caribbean Islands as soon as it was safe following the devastation of Hurricane Irma last weekend.  The islands quickly devolved into lawlessness and chaos after the Category 5 hurricane reduced some of the islands to little more than rubble.  Barbuda, an island of only 1,600 residents is said to be 95 percent destroyed.

Survivors told harrowing tales, not only of the massive destruction, but of the bands of marauders and looters who came with machetes and guns as soon as the winds had died down.  The citizens, many of them visitors to the islands, had barely survived the 185 mph winds when looters arrived to steal whatever was left, including fuel and food.

And then the United States military units began arriving with equipment and armed troops to keep the peace.

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attached to the U.S.S. Kearsarge (LHD 3) amphibious assault ship, and the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 were some of the first on scene.   The Air Force carrying in Army Soldiers landed at what was left of the Cyril E. King International Airport in St. Thomas and more units are on the way.   Due to head to the islands soon are four UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and  another 34 Soldiers assigned to the 1/230th Aviation Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard.

Today the Coast Guard issued a reminder to boaters and mariners in the U.S. Virgin Islands to abide by maritime laws as a massive private boat-lift is under way to ferry supplies to the islands and evacuate residents.  Many islands depend on getting goods via St. Thomas, either through the airport or the cargo docks at Charlotte-Amalie.   One of the main ferries from St. Thomas to St. John was lost in the hurricane.

In addition to the U.S. military, FEMA and Red Cross are already on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Other islands in the Caribbean are governed by England, the Netherlands and France and the heads of state from those countries have dispatched their militaries and relief organizations.

The death toll in the Islands from the Cat 5 storm is inching up, with 36 confirmed deaths.

 

Pioneer Harvey Relief-Volunteer Marines head to Texas to rebuild

 

This morning, as Americans turn their focus towards Florida and the devastation in the Caribbean Islands, one team of active-duty Marines have arrived in Rockport, Texas, to assist the  small, all-volunteer Fire Department after Hurricane Harvey made a direct hit in their town.

All twelve active-duty  Marines are stationed aboard Camp Pendleton in California.  Some of these Marines have been deployed to Afghanistan and/or Iraq and are prepared to meet the destruction in Rockport headlong and at their own expense.  They are “neither sponsored nor endorsed by the government or any other organization.”  They are entirely self-organized and funded by their families and friends, and hopefully by those who read their story.

One of those Marines indicated that their command “could not legally sponsor this trip because they did not get a direct tasker for a mission to go.”  The volunteers are using their own personal “leave time” for this effort. They want to give back to a community that has been hit far beyond the capability of rebuilding it on their own.

Many Americans have held back donating to Hurricane Harvey relief, waiting instead for a grass-roots effort that needed some help.  This group of self-deploying Marines should be that team.

This is who the Pioneer Harvey Relief team is going to help:

The Rockport Volunteer Fire Department is a nonprofit organization independent of the City of Rockport.  Rockport’s first volunteer fire department was created in 1885 when Sam Smith bought a fire wagon with a chemical tank and hose for $1400 and donated it to the City.

More than a century later, approximately 50 dedicated volunteers continue to suppress fires and provide vehicular accident and technical rescue services through four stations and an impressive array of equipment.

Currently, the plan is for the Marines to support the local economy by purchasing tools in Texas. Those tools will be donated to the Rockport Fire Department when the Marines leave.

As of 1:00 p.m. Central Time these Marines arrived on scene awaiting instructions from local authorities on where to begin.  Follow their journey on Facebook at “Pioneer Harvey Relief” as they get down and dirty helping to restore and rebuild this community of approximately 10,000 citizens.

Donations to support Pioneer Harvey Relief should be sent directly to the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department.  Checks can be mailed to “City of Rockport Volunteer Fire Department-622 E. Market St.-Rockport, TX 78382  Attn: Barbara Gurtner. 

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