The strength and force of recent hurricanes in the Caribbean left historic levels of devastation on several island nations and territories in the region, said Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command.
“These disasters underscore our [interconnectedness] and the importance of strong partnerships,” the admiral told reporters at a media roundtable today.
“It’s truly been a team effort among us and partner nation militaries, governments, federal agencies, and all those involved to move rapidly and to get support where it is needed the most,” he said.
Tidd said the U.S. military’s assistance was requested because of its “unique capabilities and the speed and flexibility that are needed most in the critical, early stages of disaster relief operations.”
Because some of the affected islands are United States territories, U.S. Northern Command in Colorado has been supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies’ aid to Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Tidd said.
Southcom is working with its lead federal agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in addition to the State Department on requests for foreign disaster assistance from a number of nations most heavily damaged by the storms, he said.
Joint Task Force Leeward Islands
Southcom deployed Joint Task Force Leeward Islands to Puerto Rico on Sept. 9 to support the evacuation of U.S. citizens and to provide assistance to the Dutch and French militaries on St. Maarten/St. Martin. To date, U.S. military forces have evacuated 2,073 American citizens from St. Maarten/St. Martin and Anguilla, a DoD report indicated.
Since its deployment, the task force has purified more than 21,000 gallons of water, distributed more than 7,000 gallons, and delivered nine water purification systems and high-capacity fork lifts and vehicles to help the French and Dutch governments.
“[The task force] is now working with French and Dutch authorities again to resume support of relief operations as quickly as conditions permit,” Tidd said.
U.S. is Compassionate
“Our country is a compassionate, generous and caring nation with a long history of aiding those around the world who are impacted by disasters,” the Southcom commander said.
“We are proud to support disaster assistance that helps nations save lives, mitigate suffering and transition as quickly as possible from response to recovery,” he added.
Tidd says it is anticipated that U.S. military support will decline as international relief efforts progress and as experienced relief organizations assume active roles supporting these islands’ governments.
“Transitioning tasks to our host nation and civilian partners will occur as rapidly as possible,” he said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)