By Rear Adm. Roy Kitchener
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Two
To our families,
My name is Rear Adm. Roy Kitchener, and I am the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two. I have the privilege of leading Sailors and Marines aboard USS Mesa Verde and USS Iwo Jima to support relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. I am writing to you today because your mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or friend is part of my team supporting these efforts. I want you to know what I know, and I want you to be as informed as possible because I strongly believe that well-informed families are vital to our readiness, peace of mind and mission success.
Whether you live in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia or elsewhere, you are aware that a Category 4 hurricane named Matthew formed in the Atlantic Ocean some days ago, has since moved through parts of the Caribbean and is now affecting the Southeast region of the U.S. As it moved through the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew greatly affected parts of Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and elsewhere along its path. As Matthew continues along its track our national weather agencies predict the hurricane will continue to affect the Southeast U.S. for potentially several more days.
In Haiti, where Hurricane Matthew has done the most significant damage so far, we have been tasked to prepare to respond with lifesaving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the areas affected by this powerful storm. Your Sailor or Marine is preparing to help clear roadways for vital medical supplies and food to be transported to those cut off by the damage and debris. Many of our military medical professionals are preparing to provide direct medical assistance to those in need, and our talented pilots, craft masters and logistics personnel are preparing to move vast amounts of critical supplies in support of the relief efforts.
I am extremely proud of the hard work your Sailor or Marine has put in thus far and you should feel very proud of your Sailor or Marine's performance during this mission as well. Your loved one is preparing to directly and substantially help people in the most dire of circumstances, and I have the utmost confidence in their abilities to safely and successfully complete any mission assigned to them.
We do not know how long we will be away from home. My guess is that it will be about 30 days, and that's what I told my wife and son before we left. It could be a bit shorter or longer depending upon our orders, and I will ensure you know as soon as I know once I get a better feel for how long we will be here.
It's important to me that our Sailors and Marines have the ability to communicate with you while they are carrying out their mission. We have email aboard our ships, but we do not have enough computers for each Sailor and Marine to be able to use one at will. We do not have the capability to facilitate communications to home from inside Haiti, however. Please do not dismay if you do not hear from your Sailor or Marine as much as you have been accustomed to during previous underway periods. The nature of these operations may limit his or her ability to find a computer or telephone. Even if you do not hear from your Sailor or Marine each day, I would encourage you to email them as much as you are able. The importance of your support and patience cannot be overstated.
Lastly, if you are in the areas affected by the storm, please be safe. Nothing is more important to us than your safety and well being. There are many resources available to you such as your command's ombudsman, Family Readiness Officer, www.Ready.gov, www.NOAA.gov etc., and I highly encourage you to use these resources.
Thank you so much your support! Without you, we couldn't support others!