Sailors, Marines Join USS Wasp for Sandy Relief
By Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Lockett
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2012 Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., flew aboard the USS Wasp Nov. 1 to prepare to provide assistance to New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed aboard USS Wasp, Nov. 1, 2012, currently afloat off the coast of New York City, to assist in disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The 26th MEU can provide generators, fuel, clean water and helicopter lift capabilities to aid in disaster relief efforts. The 26th MEU is currently in pre-deployment training, preparing for their departure in 2013. As an expeditionary crisis response force operating from the sea, the MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael S. Lockett
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Within less than a day of receiving the order from Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marines and sailors boarded aircraft and sortied from bases in North Carolina to meet the amphibious assault ship as it sailed off the coast of New York City, preparing to provide medical, logistical, engineering, and heavy airlift support to the storm-damaged areas if tasked by the secretary of defense.
“What’s important here is that the American public sees that their military can provide support to American cities, to American citizens, in a time of need,” said Marine Corps Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, 26th MEU commanding officer. The MEU is a Marine Corps crisis-response force that’s designed to remain afloat for months at a time
The 26th MEU is uniquely suited to the task. Operating from a Navy vessel, the unit’s air assets have an agility that ensures aid can be delivered anywhere within hundreds of miles.
“We have the capability to fly, and we can support New Jersey. We can support New York City. We can support Connecticut -- simultaneously,” St. Clair said. “That’s what the MEU brings -- the flexibility and the inherent capabilities that come with it.”
The 26th MEU equipment embarked aboard the Wasp were chosen to give the unit many tools to bring to its assistance efforts in the area. Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron 266 Reinforced, assisted by aircraft from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467, has UH-1N Huey and the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters capable of moving large numbers of passengers, supplies, or equipment.
“This is another great example of the flexibility and responsiveness of the Navy-Marine Corps team,” St. Clair said. “Specifically, our [helicopters provide the] ability to conduct these operations from the sea. We’re able to do something other services cannot do. We don’t have to have a large footprint on the shore. We can conduct all of our command and control from the sea.”
The Wasp, purpose-built to support the operations of a Marine expeditionary unit, is the perfect staging platform for this kind of operation.
“The city of New York -- the states -- don’t have to find space to billet Marines. They don’t have to find space for our aircraft. Because we can recover back to the USS Wasp, and we can do that every day,” St. Clair said.
“We can assist with the ability to move supplies with our aviation assets. We can do a site survey to determine how bad an area is. We can help move and distribute supplies; water, food, blankets -- pieces of equipment,” St. Clair said. “If it can fit in a CH-53E, we can move it. We can get supplies and people to areas that are affected, where the only means to get there may be aviation assets.”
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, specializing in construction and debris removal, water purification and transport, electrical and generator work, medical support and heavy machinery operation, give the commanding officer many options.
“The MEU has all these capabilities inherent to the MAGTF -- the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. We’re able to respond quickly. We’re able to self-deploy. And the flexibility we have by being embarked on the USS Wasp allows for an afloat staging area,” St. Clair said.
“Something like this pulls America together. There’s support coming here from all over the country,” he said, noting the MEU is just one part of a larger plan, with other agencies and organizations coming together to provide assistance to the storm-stricken Northeast.
“This is an example of what a true crisis response force is,” St. Clair said. “It’s the MEU and the amphibious ready group. We moved to the affected area quickly, with a robust capability, and we’re posturing to support.”