More than 2,000 Marines and sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are now underway and in route to aid in the international Haiti relief effort.
The MEU departed Morehead City, N.C., Jan. 16 at 9 a.m. aboard the Amphibious Assault Ship USS Bataan and are expected to arrive off the shore of Haiti by Jan. 18.
A fourth ship, the USS Gunston Hall, was added to the Marine effort in addition to the USS Fort McHenry and Carter Hall already slated for support. The Gunston Hall will transport a platoon of amphibious assault vehicles from 2nd Marine Division.
The addition of AAV Marines will provide the necessity of ship-to-shore operations and amphibious landing capabilities to current U.S. military efforts in the earthquake-ravaged nation. The amphibious ships, AAV's and helicopters the MEU is deploying with could allow them to sea-base off shore while still providing immediate relief support.
“We don’t know if we will sea-base or not at this point, but the great thing about sea-basing is that we can push forces in during the day and recover them at night,” said Capt. Clark Carpenter, the MEU’s public affairs officer. “That reduces the strain on an already strained infrastructure and we have a great capability from those ships to provide command and control. [With] this Navy and Marine Corps team, when you put them together on these amphibious ships, there’s an incredible capability to do a number of things.”
Officials from U.S. Southern Command said U.S. aid is focused on working with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, international relief organizations and local responders to provide search and rescue, distribute aid and assess damage to key infrastructure.
Carpenter said Marines are equipped with heavy-lift and earth-moving vehicles as well as additional medical support capabilities.
He said though the world has come to know Marines as warriors, humanitarian relief remains one of the Corps’ substantial assets.
“Expeditionary, that’s our middle name,” Carpenter said. “We unload and load ships very quickly and very often. It’s a challenge but it’s not a unique challenge to what we typically do.”
The Marine Corps has also solicited the aid of any Marine who speaks Creole to act as interpreters to expedite the relief effort.
Lance Cpl. Luchmy Luc, a Marine who volunteered to go to Haiti as a Creole-English interpreter, had only one thing to say to his family in Haiti and to America – “We’re going to do all we can and the best we can.”
The 22nd MEU consists of its command element; Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced).
All military efforts are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission.
For more information on the Haiti relief effort visit the Marine Corps Haiti Aid page.