U.S. Southern Command released the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) from support of post-Hurricane Maria relief operations in Dominica Sept. 29, and the ship will now join relief efforts for U.S. territories in the Caribbean.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, through Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI), was able to rapidly deploy Wasp to Dominica with critically-needed logistic capabilities. Wasp, which had been providing assistance to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma, was re-positioned to avoid the path of Hurricane Maria.
The amphibious ship arrived in Caribbean waters near Dominica Sept. 21, expanding JTF-LI support to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In close coordination with those federal agencies, two embarked SH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters aboard Wasp evacuated U.S. citizens, and other storm victims, and supported U.S. foreign disaster assistance to the island nation.
The airlift and transport capabilities of amphibious ships make them uniquely suited to support disaster relief operations in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. Wasp evacuated 126 people and delivered humanitarian aid. Wasp was also instrumental in the rescue of two survivors from a plane crash in the waters off of Dominica Sept. 28.
Navy assets remaining in support of JTF-LI are USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1), providing sea lift for cargo and personnel; a P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, deploying out of Comalapa, El Salvador, providing aerial damage assessments; and two C-12 Huron logistics aircraft supporting JTF-LI personnel in the Leeward Islands.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.