Hurricane Irma impacts West Florida
Five warships including the amphibious assault transport dock the USS New York — which was forged in part from steel salvaged from the World Trade Center — spent the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks underway for southern Florida Monday to assist in post-Irma humanitarian relief efforts.
The USS Iwo Jima and USS New York, left their home port in Mayport, Florida, last week for Norfolk, Virginia to pick up more than 300 sailors as well as Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and II Marine Expeditionary Force. They were linking up with the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln; a destroyer, the USS Farragut; and a cruiser, the USS San Jacinto.
They should be ready to assist the state on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said Sunday.
Military officials said the mini-armada — smaller than a strike group — can handle a variety of missions, notably using four of the five ships as floating platforms. “As Irma clears, airfields will be established in southern Florida and support operations from the sea with air assets provided” by the Lincoln, San Jacinto, Iwo Jima and New York.
The Navy said the ships can provide medical and logistic support, handle seaborne security duty, and with three heavy-left Super Stallion helicopters and 25 medium lift, multi-mission Seahawk helicopters can be used for a range of duties — from search and rescue missions to moving relief supplies from sea to shore.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Lincoln, part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet is based in Norfolk. Sailors from the ship have done humanitarian, post-disaster relief operations before, notably in 2005 after a devastating tsunami struck Aceh Province in Sumatra, Indonesia.
It recently completed a four-year, mid-life overhaul and was returned to sea duty in May.
The governor’s office can also tap into other out-of-state U.S. military support. Over the weekend, a U.S. Air Force rescue squadron from Anchorage, Alaska, reached the U.S. Coast Guard’s Miami air station in OpaLocka — an offer of support to search-and-rescue operations from the northernmost tip of the United States even before Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, the nation’s southernmost tip.
For combat situations, pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron, an Alaska Air National Guard Unit, are trained to pluck isolated personnel from enemy territory and carry out various recovery missions. In peacetime, for example in the aftermath of an assault by Hurricane Irma, they can also fly helicopters to evacuate survivors of natural disaster, move the sick and injured — and deliver relief supplies.
Saturday, the unit arrived in an Air Force HC-130 cargo plane at the Miami Coast Guard’s Opalocka airfield with pallets of gear to await their Irma mission.
Other Pentagon offers of support to the state include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers power teams, debris removal teams, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel, Davis said. By Sunday they were on alert and ready in Florida and Georgia.