The Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local civilian authorities with initial assessment operations in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) following Typhoon Mangkhut Sept 11.
The Department of Defense stood up a Defense Coordination Office and is working in concert with the CNMI Joint Information Center to monitor, assess and plan for possible requests. Commander, Task Force 76 is supporting Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) efforts in Rota, Tinian and Saipan.
Navy and Marine Corps aircraft began aerial surveys of the islands of Rota, Saipan and Tinian, while ESG leadership met with local leaders and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to assess relief priorities.
Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, who was joined by commanding officer, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Col. Robert Brodie, and commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 Capt. Jim McGovern, said the ESG is here to provide support to local relief efforts.
"The Presidential Emergency Declaration reflects the seriousness of the situation on the ground in CNMI," said Cooper. "We are pleased that our Navy-Marine Corps Team is positioned to support FEMA in this important DSCA operation to help the people of CNMI."
In order to move equipment and personnel to the islands, the ESG team conducted surveys of potential landing sites on all three islands. Aerial
surveys were conducted by MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters assigned to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 and MV-22
Ospreys assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262. Ground surveys were conducted by Sailors from Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, who were flown ashore to assess damage caused by the typhoon.
“Our priority was to find suitable locations clear of debris, large enough to land our LCUs [landing craft, utility] and LCACs [Landing craft, air
cushion], that were safe for personnel to conduct operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Louis Peters, officer in charge of NBU 7.
Defense Support of Civil authorities is the process by which the Department of Defense provides support to FEMA, working with Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ civil and local officials.
Photo: Lance Cpl Alexis Betances, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors with the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp board a MH-60S Seahawk to conduct surveys on the islands of Guam and Saipan as part of the Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team, off the coast of Guam, Sep. 9, 2018. The 31st MEU and the ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group are assisting local government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency with distributing emergency relief supplies after the island was struck by Typhoon Mangkhut, September 10. The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible force ready to perform a wide-range of military operations.