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Face of Defense: Sailor Aids Hurricane Relief Effort in Florida Hometown

Sept. 28, 2017 | BY Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelsey Adams, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabrielle Young recently paid a visit to her hometown here, but she didn't make the trip just to visit with friends and loved ones.

Sailor poses with hometown friend
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabrielle Young, who is from Key West, Fla., and assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, reconnects with family friend Alan Everette, Key West's fire marshal, Sept. 15, 2017. The Defense Department is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shamira Purifoy
Sailor poses with hometown friend
Reconnecting
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabrielle Young, who is from Key West, Fla., and assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, reconnects with family friend Alan Everette, Key West's fire marshal, Sept. 15, 2017. The Defense Department is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shamira Purifoy
Photo By: Petty Officer 1st Class Shamira Purifoy
VIRIN: 170915-N-YL073-0076

Young, an aviation ordnance specialist assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, assisted in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key early Sept. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph. Cudjoe Key and Key West are part of the Florida Keys. Key West is about 20 miles southwest of Cudjoe Key, and both communities sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Irma.

The Iwo Jima, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York and the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto, along with various embarked air and amphibious landing assets, arrived on station off Key West on Sept. 12 to support Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

"It was incredibly cool" to have had Young be a part of the relief effort after Hurricane Irma, said Navy Capt. Bobby Baker, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Key West. "I stand in awe of all the service members and civilian employees who have worked so hard this week to get Naval Air Station Key West and our community up and running," he added.

Although Young was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, she said she considers Key West to be her hometown, as she spent the majority of her life living there and because the local people made her feel at home.

Giving Back

"It was a blessing that my ship, USS Iwo Jima, was selected to come down and help out after Hurricane Irma hit Key West," Young said. "One of the main reasons I joined the Navy was because of all the amazing people that I met while I lived in Key West, so it really means a lot to me to have been able to give back to the people and community that helped me as I was growing up in Key West. I get to use all the skills the Navy has taught me and deliver the much-needed supplies my ship was able to bring down."

Florida governor shakes hands with sailor
Florida Gov. Rick Scott greets Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justine Ivanitskiy, a culinary specialist who is from the Philippines and assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, during humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma's landfall near Key West, Fla., Sept. 15, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shamira Purifoy
Florida governor shakes hands with sailor
Governor visit
Florida Gov. Rick Scott greets Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justine Ivanitskiy, a culinary specialist who is from the Philippines and assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, during humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma's landfall near Key West, Fla., Sept. 15, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shamira Purifoy
Photo By: Petty Officer 1st Class Shamira Purifoy
VIRIN: 170915-N-YL073-0036

Since arriving in Key West, sailors from Iwo Jima have been delivering water, food and supplies to the community as well as repairing generators, clearing debris and restoring the air station's port operations pier to make it available for use.

"On my first day here, I was able to go to port operations, and I helped put buoys into the water and restore the pier," Young said. "By doing this, it opened up the pier so that military personnel could be brought in from the ships to deliver supplies and aid in various relief efforts around the base and community."

As the Iwo Jima prepared to head back to sea, Young said she looks forward to a time when she'll be able to return to a restored Key West and do simple things such as going fishing and spending time with loved ones.

Good Experience

"It has truly been a blessing that I was able to come back to my home and give back to the town that changed my life," Young said. "Helping out after Hurricane Irma and seeing all the people working hard to help out a community filled me with a sense of accomplishment and joy. It is definitely an experience I will remember for the rest of my life."

Relief efforts are still going on in the Key West area, where military members and civilian volunteers are handing out food, water, ice and supplies at several distribution centers.

The Defense Department is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering. The DoD-FEMA partnership is part of the whole-of-government response effort, officials said.