USS Kearsarge returns from hurricane relief ops

US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) wrapped up her hurricane relief efforts returning home to Norfolk on November 6.

The ship and its crew spent 68 days providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Kearsarge, the staff of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, along with the 26th and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); Commander, Amphibious Squadron 6; Tactical Air Control Squadron 22; Fleet Surgical Team 4; and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7, departed for Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey Aug. 31, after approximately 30 hours in port following a 10-day underway conducting routine shipboard certifications.

“Besides delivering combat power from the sea, amphibious assault ships are ideally suited to deliver assistance and aid,” said Kearsarge’s commanding officer Capt. David K. Guluzian. “We can transport large amounts of manpower and supplies to areas in need using our small boats, landing craft and helicopters.

With the collaboration of all-hands, prior to departing Naval Station Norfolk, Kearsarge took on more than 200 pallets containing items such as baby food and formula, diapers, bedding, water bottles, coolers, batteries, towels, canned and dry food items and food service supplies.

Shortly after their arrival off the coast of Florida, Kearsarge and her crew received word of Hurricane Irma and were redirected to the Caribbean to be ready to immediately respond. As soon as the storm passed the US Virgin Islands, Kearsarge was on station to render aid.

Just two weeks after Irma ravaged the US Virgin Islands, Kearsarge, along with the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) were again redirected and temporarily departed the area to prepare for impending Hurricane Maria. As soon as Maria passed, helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft from Kearsarge and her units were flying search and rescue and aerial assessment missions over the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

After the initial delivery of life-sustaining commodities to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the mission then added a focus on road and route clearance. While still maintaining regular deliveries of supplies to points of distribution as well as hard-to-reach locations in Puerto Rico, Marines and Seabees were on the ground removing debris, enabling federal and Puerto Rican government employees and volunteers to begin service and infrastructure restoration.

Kearsarge also took on the mission to repair generators at hospitals in Puerto Rico where teams from Kearsarge assessed the status of generators at 51 hospitals on the island, 49 of which were in dire need of fuel.

While at sea, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited Kearsarge Oct. 3, to discuss operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Trump commended the crew for their efforts.

“This is some ship,” said Trump. “It has done a tremendous service for Puerto Rico and for the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Additionally, during the 68-day period, Kearsarge conducted more amphibious and flight operations than would be completed in a routine six-month deployment.