NORFOLK, Va. –
Arlington was underway participating in the U.S. Navy’s Large-Scale Exercise 2021 (LSE 2021) when tasked to support U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti Aug. 14.
Within 24 hours, Arlington offloaded LSE 2021 personnel and equipment, and embarked HADR assets to include MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters, attached to the “Chargers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26; a landing craft, utility (LCU), attached to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2; Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 2; Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22; and Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
“It was a tremendous team effort by multiple commands pulling all of the resources the Navy could muster,” said Capt. Eric Kellum, commanding officer of Arlington.
Arlington directly contributed to USAID’s distribution of almost 600,000 pounds of cargo to include food, medical supplies and other critical relief supplies; the transportation of approximately 200 aid workers to support the mission; and supplied 25,000 gallons of JP-5 aircraft fuel to support flight operations.
“In a single day we were able to distribute over 100,000 pounds of food with an LCU to the remote area of Jérémie, which has been cut off from Port-au-Prince due to damage caused by the earthquake,” said Kellum. “Team Arlington came to Haiti with the goal of saving lives and easing suffering and that is exactly what we were able to do.”
The mission consisted of three core tasks: Provide a ready flight deck for refueling and conducting flight operations for over 16 joint task force helicopters; provide a command and control platform for the Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander and the U.S. Marine Corps Task Force; and provide a sea-basing logistical hub for quick and efficient aid distribution to Haiti.
“All of our missions provide the president and secretary of defense multiple options to respond to global threats to our national security,” said Kellum. “However, Arlington is ideally suited for humanitarian missions because we can respond rapidly anywhere in the world and be ready to save lives immediately upon arrival.”
Arlington coordinated efforts with other U.S. Southern Command components and U.S. Coast Guard ships in addition to allies and partners from the Netherlands, France and United Kingdom.
French and Dutch Sailors visited Arlington to enable the exchange of best practices as they worked together toward the common goal of supporting the humanitarian relief efforts.
Rear Adm. Keith Davids, Joint Task Force-Haiti commander, and Tim Callaghan, USAID disaster response team lead, also visited Arlington prior to Arlington’s departure from the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operation and expressed their appreciation for the humanitarian assistance provided.
“You are making a difference,” said Davids.
“I can’t thank you enough for your service and your help to the people of Haiti,” said Callaghan. “The amount of support provided, we could not have done it without the DoD.”
Arlington is in the advanced phase of deployment training and will continue to maintain readiness levels for a scheduled 2022 deployment with the USS Kearsarge amphibious readiness group.