From USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Public Affairs
Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) returned to their homeport of Naval Station Mayport, Oct. 28, after conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as part of Joint Task Force (JTF) Matthew.
The mission of JTF Matthew, led by Rear Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two, was to provide support for the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in their efforts to provide immediate humanitarian and disaster relief assistance in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
The deadly hurricane smashed into Haiti, Oct. 4, killing hundreds. U.S. military forces were already steaming toward Haiti when it struck, arriving just hours afterward.
Overall, JTF-Matthew conducted 400 hours of flight operations and delivered of more than 600,000 pounds of humanitarian relief supplies to some of the most impacted areas from the storm, directly aiding an estimated 100,000 citizens in the process.
The crew of Iwo Jima was underway due to the expected arrival of Hurricane Matthew when they received the call to provide support in Haiti.
"Everyone on board Iwo Jima and the embarked units performed exceptionally well throughout the entire mission," said Capt. James Midkiff, commanding officer of Iwo Jima. "To successfully execute something of this caliber definitely takes a team effort, and that includes the team waiting for us back home. Thank you to the Sailors and Marines, the ombudsmen, and the friends and family who continue to support everything we do."
Iwo Jima and 500 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed Naval Station, Oct. 8, following a two-day onload totaling nearly 225 pallets of supplies, including 800 cases of bottled water.
The ship also embarked 11 aircraft and two landing craft units (LCU) adept at accessing fouled beaches. Other units on board Iwo Jima included Amphibious Squadron EIGHT, Tactical Air Squadron 21, Meteorological Fleet Survey Team, Assault Craft Unit TWO, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, Fleet Intelligence Department Office of Naval Intelligence, and Naval Beach Group TWO.
After their departure from Norfolk, Iwo Jima relieved USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) as the lead Navy support for JTF Matthew, Oct. 13.
The amphibious-based JTF provided medium and heavy lift helicopters to carry large relief supply loads in the western part of Haiti, which was hardest hit.
The Department of Defense has a longstanding history of providing initial support and capabilities to disaster relief efforts until governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations are able to provide the needed aid on their own.
Once JTF-Matthew's unique capabilities were no longer required, the JTF ceased operations, Oct. 21, and transitioned the longer-term relief effort to the appropriate civilian agencies.