JTF-Matthew Transitions to USS Iwo Jima
By Claudia Sánchez-Bustamante/Diálogo October 18, 2016U.S. Navy Admiral Kurt Tidd, U.S. Southern (SOUTHCOM) commander, announced on October 15th that the air relief effort undertaken to bring humanitarian aid and assistance to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew has begun to transition from land to the USS Iwo Jima, deployed on Haiti’s coastal waters in order to continue to support the U.S. Agency for International Disaster (USAID). "What you’re beginning to see is a transition as the civil authorities, [non-governmental organizations], and other entities get in, get on the ground ... and deliver life-saving goods," said Adm. Kurt Tidd. "We're kind of at that natural point where the demand signal on us is going down as they are picking up the load." On October 16th, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Cedric Pringle, commander of JTF-Matthew, transferred command of the operation to Rear Admiral Roy I. Kitchener, commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2, deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). This allows air lift duties to be directed from the Iwo Jima and the close to 400 task force personnel deployed with 12 HH-53 Super Stallion, HH-60 Black Hawk, and CH-47 Chinook helicopters to support JTF-Matthew since October 5th to redeploy to their home stations, opening up valuable landing space at Port-au-Prince International Airport for the aid coming in from the international community. As of that same date, JTF-Matthew helicopters have delivered approximately 239.5 metric tons of relief commodities (aid and supplies) to the people in areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Many tasks that were being performed by the task force have been completed, but those that remain will be assumed by civilian disaster assistance experts and agencies in Haiti. The USS Iwo Jima, the world’s largest amphibious assault ship, provides greater capabilities and flexibility to the task force. According to the U.S. Navy, its airlift and transport capabilities make it uniquely suited to support the delivery and distribution of much-needed relief supplies, as well as transport humanitarian assistance personnel in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. The Iwo Jima brought with it 11 embarked aircraft and more than 500 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and 225 pallets of supplies to support the effort led by the USAID. "The same capabilities that make us a dominant military force also allow us the ability to provide critically-needed assistance and humanitarian aid," said Lt. Col. Christopher D. Hafer, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 24, speaking on behalf of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, to the ESG 2 Public Affairs. "We are able to work alongside the various U.S. government agencies experienced in providing disaster relief to ensure relief supplies, equipment, and manpower get to where they are most needed." According to an article on the website Navy Times, Adm. Tidd said he's pleased with how his troops performed on a short-notice mission. "What is always gratifying to see is when you pull together a disparate team of people coming from all over the country as well as those in theater … they work together, they coordinate in a very seamless manner," Adm. Tidd said. "This is joint operations at its finest."