By MC3 Kristen Cheyenne Yarber
Southern Partnership Station 2017 Public Affairs
Expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) arrived at the island of St. Martin Sept. 16, 2017, to assist in disaster relief efforts for persons affected by Hurricane Irma, during Southern Partnership Station 17 (SPS 17).
Operating as part of Joint Task Force Leeward Islands (JTF-LWI), Spearhead traveled to the Caribbean nation to support the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, which led humanitarian assistance efforts.
After offloading the SPS 17 adaptive force package troops and equipment in Guatemala, Spearhead stopped at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to load supplies for the relief mission Sept. 12.
Upon arrival at St. Martin, Sailors and civil service mariners offloaded 1,000 meals, ready to eat (MREs) and 81,000 bottles of water from the ship's mission bay, to the pier.
St. Martin sustained significant damage after Hurricane Irma passed over the island's landmass. The hurricane struck as a category five storm, causing widespread destruction of the country's infrastructure. Irma was the first major hurricane to hit the island in 22 years.
"At least one third of all the buildings were destroyed," said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Mason Joyner, assigned to the military detachment embarked aboard Spearhead. "The electricity was out, and [potable] water was unavailable because they couldn't make their own water."
While St. Martin is slowly recovering, the demand for basic necessities remains. "Our main needs now are water and canned goods," said Ardwell Iriom, a member of St. Martin's parliament.
Iriom said there were teams of volunteers ready to distribute supplies to those in need, making deliveries, such as those by the Spearhead, greatly appreciated.
"I want to thank the USA and the Navy and Marines for supporting our island," said Iriom. "We really appreciate all the support we are getting internationally."
Iriom also said although there is devastation across St. Martin, the support they are receiving will help them rebuild from the effects of the storm and become even stronger.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central, and South American regions.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.