One year ago this month our Navy answered the call for assistance when a catastrophic earthquake struck the nation of Haiti killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying much of that nation’s already fragile infrastructure.
From the moment the disaster struck, our Sailors anticipated the call for help and within one hour our Navy began to respond.
USS HIGGINS (returning from a CENTCOM deployment) was immediately diverted to Haiti and was the first Navy ship to arrive on station just two days later on 14 January.
USS CARL VINSON diverted while underway and was able to off-load elements of her Air Wing for 19 helicopters as she passed Mayport on 13 January. These helicopters were able to arrive or be on their way within 12 hours of notification. Some of our pilots had 30 minutes to pack a bag, get to their squadron, brief the flight, and get their helo aboard VINSON. A sustained, high speed transit allowed VINSON to arrive off of Port-au-Prince by the morning of 15 January.
USS BATAAN ARG (which included USS FORT MCHENRY and USS CARTER HALL) was activated two hours after the earthquake and got underway just 48 hours later (from a dead cold start) on 14 January. She was joined by USS GUNSTON HALL and arrived in Haiti on 18 January.
USNS COMFORT was given the order to activate on 13 January at 0500 and deployed just 77 hours later at 0930 on 16 January – much faster than the 5-day activation time typically required for a hospital ship.
The HIGGINS, VINSON, BATAAN ARG, GUNSTON HALL and COMFORT are just a few examples of our Fleet’s ability to rapidly respond to a significant, no-notice tasking of a core Navy mission – Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief.
By the end of January (18 days after the earthquake), our Navy had 23 ships and more than 15,000 Sailors and Marines on station and contributing to the relief effort.
Last week, the ENTERPRISE Strike Group got underway for its first deployment since 2007. In many ways, this deployment is unlike any other in our Navy’s history. ENTERPRISE is a 49 year old nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (the first ever) making her 21st deployment. The fact she is still an active Navy ship, capable of deploying with a strike group, is truly remarkable. She has certainly had her share of expenses and maintenance challenges the last few years, but her crew and the entire strike group trained hard during workups, and will deploy a full-up round. The ENTERPRISE Strike Group and her 6,000 Sailors are now on their way to conduct operations in the 5th and 6th Fleet AORs.
Our support to Haiti, the ENTERPRISE Strike Group deployment and the many other missions our Navy is executing around the world every day, are all the hallmarks of a ready force. The ENTERPRISE Strike Group did not get underway by chance or luck; our Navy had a plan and our Sailors executed. It was not by chance our Sailors and Marines were in Haiti saving lives within days of the earthquake; a deployment of that scope and magnitude would simply not have been possible if our people were not prepared for the unexpected and able to adapt rapidly to a catastrophic situation that demanded their best.
But challenging workups to deployment and no-notice taskings are nothing new for our Sailors. In fact, it gets at the heart of who we are and how we do business…and we’ve been doing it this way for 235 years.
All the best, JCHjr