Kearsarge Departs Haiti, Resumes Continuing Promise 2008

USS Kearsarge

USS Kearsarge

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USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) departed Haiti Sept. 26 after completing a 19-day disaster relief mission in the storm-ravaged Caribbean nation.

The mission included robust helicopter and sealift support to U.S. relief efforts led by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

During its support to USAID-led relief efforts in Haiti, Marine and Navy helicopters embarked aboard Kearsarge flew more than 100 sorties and the landing craft transported more than 30 loads of supplies. These operations led to the timely delivery of more than 3.3 million lbs. of food, water, and other relief supplies to Haitian communities devastated in recent weeks by several tropical storms and Hurricane Ike.

A team of medical personnel conducted health assessments at 16 villages thorughout the affected area and provided basic medical care to more than 1,000 Haitian citizens. Doctors from the ship performed health examinations, looking for diseases inherent to natural disasters, and conducted preventive services, such as environmental assessments.

Prior to her departure, Kearsarge medical personnel delivered their assessments to the various agencies assisting here to ensure a seamless transition of the ship’s aid distribution activities to other relief organizations in Haiti.

“All of the information we gathered was in areas where the government and other agencies assisting with the relief effort here had not been to before,” said Medical Contingent Commander, Cmdr. Dave Damstra. “We were able to give them vital information they did not have, and it should be a great benefit in assisting with the recovery.”

In response to a formal request for engineering assistance, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force engineers embarked aboard Kearsarge assisted Haitian officials with assessing the condition of roads and bridges damaged by the storms.

“Engineers have mainly been doing bridge assessments; looking at bridges that have failed and determining most likely cause of failure as well as recommended expedient and long term means of repairing them,” said Air Force 1st Lieutenant Lindsey Maddox. “Also, we’ve done basic road assessments and in a couple of locations assessed the local populace’s access to water, electricity, and supply routes.”

The assessments conducted by Kearsarge engineers were turned over to Haitian officials and other agencies supporting or overseeing reconstruction efforts that will use the assessments as they work to restore damaged critical infrastructure to pre-disaster conditions.

Kearsarge engineers also assisted residents of Bainet by replacing damaged pipes vital to the delivery of fresh water in the southern city.

Kearsarge’s crew partnered with non-governmental organizations (NGO), United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, Haitian government officials, and other agencies assisting in the disaster relief efforts who needed access to sites that we inaccessible by road.

“The ship and all [her] embarked elements were able to quickly respond and support USAID disaster relief efforts here,” said Capt. Fernandez “Frank” Ponds, commander of U.S. military relief operations in Haiti. “Our timely assistance to the people of Haiti reflects our nation’s and Fourth Fleet’s compassion for the many individuals and families impacted by these storms and its commitment to helping nations in times of crisis.”

According to USAID, as of Sept. 22, the U.S. has contributed more than $30 million in disaster assistance to the people of Haiti during the 2008 hurricane season.

“I am proud of the Kearsarge crew and all of the embarked units,” said Kearsarge Commanding Officer, Capt. Walt Towns. “All did not hesitate to answer the call when one of our neighbors needed assistance.”

“Through close coordination and cooperation with the numerous government and non-government organizations participating in this important mission, we’ve been able to obtain an equivalent, if not superior, lift capability to continue distributing aid to those in need,” explained Ponds. “Though our mission here has ended, the people of Haiti remain in our thoughts and prayers. It is our hope that we were able to provide some measure of comfort during this crisis.”

Kearsarge will remain in the Caribbean as part of Continuing Promise 2008, a humanitarian assistance mission that began with visits to Puerta Cabezas, Nicaragua, and Santa Marta, Colombia, where medical teams provided health-care services and engineers completed various construction and infrastructure repair projects.

Kearsarge will remain in the region through November and will continue her humanitarian assistance mission during scheduled visits to the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Continuing Promise 2008 is a collaborative effort that includes the participation of U.S. military personnel, military medical personnel from Brazil, Canada, France, and the Netherlands, medical volunteers from the U.S. Public Health Service, and volunteers from NGOs, such as Operation Smile, Project Hope, and International Aid.

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