USS ESSEX, At Sea
- The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
(MEU) are preparing to provide humanitarian assistance/disaster
relief (HADR) support to Japan March 14, after the country was hit
by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami last Friday.
ARG ships are capable of carrying out a
variety of HADR operations using helicopters assigned to the 31st
MEU and the Navy's Helicopter Sea Control Squadron 25 or amphibious
craft assigned to Beach Master Unit One and Assault Craft Unit One.
“We train for HADR missions, and with
everything from excess water-producing capacity to expanded hospital
beds, the ARG-MEU team is well-positioned to handle all the
immediate needs of most humanitarian crises,” said Capt. Bradley
Lee, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11. “We excel at survey
operations and distributing food, water and materials. Our air and
surface capabilities truly enable us to reach just about anywhere.”
The Essex ARG is comprised of the
forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the
dock landing ships USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Germantown (LSD
42) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46).
Each ship can provide fresh water,
medical contingency support, search and rescue support, heavy lift
capabilities and amphibious crafts.
Hanna said the MEU can use the Super
Stallions and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, assigned to Marine
Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, to move up to 260,000 pounds and
transport as many as 860 passengers per day.
The ARG can also use amphibious craft to
transport Marines and supplies to the beach, as well as any victims
back to the ship. Landing craft, air cushions can carry up to 23
people, while landing craft utilities can carry as many as 400.
In times of crises, the Essex medical
department has the capability to expand to a 600-bed hospital with a
14-bed intensive care unit and 46-bed inpatient ward, the largest
at-sea medical capacity of any U.S. Navy ship with the exception of
hospital ships. The ship’s medical facilities also contain six
operating rooms, three triage stations, X-ray facilities, a blood
bank and a laboratory.
The 31st MEU is also capable of
providing 45,000 meals ready to eat, fresh water and bilingual
personnel to assist in communication between U.S. service members
and Japanese citizens.
“The ARG is ready and willing to help in
any way that we are directed to help,” said Lee.
“The Sailors and Marines are true
professionals who, I am sure, will make our Navy, our Marine Corps
and the American people proud.”
Essex is headed off the coast of Japan
to conduct HADR operations in support of Operation Tomodachi.