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Press Release | Sept. 23, 2017

RELEASE: Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands relocates base of operations

U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs  –  

Press Release POCs: CDR John Ferrari: (818) 421-3062  |  Capt. Jeremy Croft: (786) 452-4650  |  Jose Ruiz: (305) 437-1205

MIAMI (Sept. 23, 2017) – The U.S. military task force supporting U.S. foreign disaster relief to St. Martin and Dominica is relocating its base of operations from Puerto Rico to three Caribbean locations in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI) is moving its main command and control element to Martinique while shifting the bases for its fixed-wing aircraft to Barbados and rotary-wing aircraft to Guadeloupe.

The relocation was necessary due to the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico and the need to have supporting U.S. forces closer to St. Martin and Dominica. JTF-LI had been primarily operating out of Muñiz Air National Guard Base in San Juan. The move includes about 300 military personnel, eight helicopters, and four C-130 Hercules aircraft.

U.S. Southern Command first deployed JTF-LI to the Caribbean Sept. 9 to support the evacuation of U.S. citizens and provide assistance to the Dutch and French governments on St. Martin in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Yesterday, U.S. Southern Command expanded the JTF-LI mission to include support to the government of Dominica after Hurricane Maria. The expanded mission includes the addition of the U.S. Navy amphibious ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) to join JTF-LI.

JTF-LI missions are in support of the 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. Evacuation of U.S. citizens is in support of the U.S. State Department.

JTF-LI suspended operations Sept. 18 as Hurricane Maria approached the Leeward Islands, sheltering personnel and aircraft at Muñiz Air National Guard Base and U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico. A small element of the task force remained in St. Martin to work with French and Dutch authorities and resume support of relief operations as quickly as conditions allowed.

The task force is comprised of about 300 military personnel ashore and about 1,100 personnel aboard USS Wasp. The task force includes USS Wasp (LHD 1), the support of 10 helicopters (two from USS Wasp), and four C-130 Hercules aircraft. Previously, USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) delivered aid to St. Martin.

In St. Martin, JTF-LI has purified more than 22,000 gallons and distributed more than 7,000 gallons of water, delivered nine water purification systems, as well as high-capacity forklifts and vehicles to help the Dutch and French governments offload and distribute aid to the island’s residents.

JTF-LI forces are currently providing C-130 evacuation flights for U.S. citizens in Dominica from Douglas-Charles (Melville) Airport during daylight hours. For U.S. citizens who are injured or otherwise unable to traverse the island, the U.S. military is providing a limited number of helicopter flights from Portsmouth to the Douglas-Charles Airport.

JTF-LI missions are in support to foreign relief efforts led by USAID/OFDA. U.S. military support to relief in U.S. territories is being led by U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, which is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies’ aid to Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.