Fourth Fleet diverts ship to provide disaster relief to Haiti
By Dialogo September 09, 2008USS KEARSARGE, At Sea – USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) is supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in providing assistance to Haiti. U.S. Fourth Fleet, headquartered at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., diverted the amphibious ship from Santa Marta, Colombia to assist with mitigating human suffering and loss of life in Haitian communities impacted by tropical storms Gustav and Hanna and Hurricane Ike. Kearsarge support to Haiti includes the movement of cargo and equipment between Port-au-Prince and Gonaives, Jeremie, Saint Marc, Port de Paix, Jacmel and Les Cayes. Helicopters from the Kearsarge have begun flying to identify suitable landing sites. Eight helicopters and three landing craft (with an approximate combined capacity to carry 253 metric tons of cargo) aboard the ship will be used to deliver relief supplies. "Assisting those in need due to a natural disaster is something we´ve been prepared to do since the onset of the Caribbean Phase of Continuing Promise 2008," said Mission Commander, Capt. Fernandez "Frank" Ponds. "Already on a humanitarian/civil assistance mission in Colombia, we moved as quickly as possible to get here, following the passing of Hurricane Ike, and we are rapidly moving to distribute relief supplies to the citizens of Haiti in the affected areas. The interagency and international cooperation in this combined effort exemplifies the United States’ commitment to cooperative partnerships in the region and our commitment to the citizens of Haiti," Ponds said. U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Fourth Fleet planners continue to work with interagency partners and their counterparts in countries affected by the recent devastating weather activity to assess recovery needs in the affected areas and identify additional U.S. military units that may be able to provide assistance. Any U.S. military assistance to a foreign nation must be requested by the host nation through the U.S. ambassador. Then, as the lead federal agent, USAID´s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance fields the request and asks the Department of Defense for military assistance, if needed.