PACIFIC OCEAN - Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) units concluded defense support to civil authority from amphibious shipping as part of U.S. Seventh Fleet relief efforts off the coast of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the wake of typhoon Mangkhut, Sept. 14, 2018.
Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, Commander of Wasp ESG, met with Governor Ralph Torres, governor of the CNMI, Mayor Joey P. San Nicolas, mayor of the island of Tinian, and Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at a ceremony where support efforts were transitioned to the Department of Defense units assigned to Joint Region Marianas commanded by Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield.
“Thank you for all the recovery efforts that you guys have made,” said Torres. “I think not just the people of CNMI have realized that this cooperation and collaboration with each other is a lot better and things are moving smoothly. We can’t thank all of you guys enough.”
The islands of Tinian and Rota felt the greatest effects of Mangkhut so the bulk of the relief efforts were focused there. Fifty-one Sailors and Marines were on Tinian during the storm preparing to participate in exercise Valiant Shield.
“I want to join the governor in expressing our thanks, particularly the people of Tinian’s,” said San Nicolas. “Tinian benefited immensely; with those 51 members of Valiant Shield plus the heavy equipment, I jokingly said to one of the Marines that you did the work of 200 people. I’m proud to announce Mr. governor, that the majority of the work was done on day-one.”
The ships of the Wasp ESG including amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) provided crucial air support for logistic operations moving personnel and equipment between the Islands of Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Rein.), and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 completed 63 sorties that facilitated over 550 personnel transfers and delivery of around 29,465 lbs. cargo including drinking water in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and local authorities.
“I’m really grateful to hear about the immediate response and the partnership that was developing even before even a Presidential declaration had come,” said Nunn. “That partnership you have and the leadership you have in place only enhances what I do.”
Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit assisted in debris removal throughout the island of Rota with more than 100 Marines and sailors helping clear roadways and various obstacles using chainsaws and axes along nine miles of the island’s main road.
Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group also supported relief efforts by flying 11 sorties covering a combined distance of more than 2,500 miles. In addition, USS Antietam (CG 54) took position to act as a floating refueling point to aid helicopters that were transporting people, supplies and equipment between islands.
Units assigned to Joint Region Marianas including Navy Mobile Construction Battalion One, Detachment Guam, will continue supporting FEMA and local agencies in the region as recovery efforts continue.
“Sailors and Marines from the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group should take great pride in the work they did for the great Americans living in the CNMI,” said Cooper. “The Navy-Marine Corps team arrived early, fully trained and made a positive impact on the lives of our fellow citizens."