About Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands
U.S. Southern Command established Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI) Sept. 9 to support U.S. disaster relief operations led by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
JTF-LI deployed to the region after Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Caribbean and responded rapidly with critically-needed capabilities to deliver assistance and aid to areas identified as priorities by USAID/OFDA in coordination with the governments of Dominica, Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten.
At its peak strength, the task force included more than 300 Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, as well as 10 Army and Marine helicopters, four U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, the U.S. Navy’s amphibious ship USS Wasp, the expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead, and support from Navy P8 Poseidon and P3 Orion aerial reconnaissance aircraft.
Background on U.S. Military Support to Foreign Disaster Relief Efforts
Any U.S. military foreign disaster relief mission is in support of U.S. Agency for International Development/Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), which serves as the lead U.S. federal agency for foreign disaster relief efforts.
Support must be requested by the host nation. U.S. military forces support the comprehensive U.S. government disaster response approach led by USAID/OFDA.
Historically, U.S. military capabilities are needed most in the critical early stages of a disaster relief operation, when fewer resources, capabilities and disaster-response experts are available to help victims and impacted communities. As a disaster relief mission progresses and more experienced experts arrive to aid longer-term recovery and reconstruction, U.S. military capabilities are typically no longer requested and the roles previously performed by military units are assumed by other relief organizations.
Over the last several years, SOUTHCOM has provided disaster assistance in the Caribbean, most notably in Haiti (Hurricane Matthew relief in 2016 and earthquake relief in 2010).