Wasp ESG provides air support to CNMI recovery efforts
The USS Wasp (LHD 1) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provided aerial assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) following Typhoon Mangkhut Sept 12. “The MEU assembled teams on board in order to provide water support on the island and generators for the local population if necessary” said 1st Lt. Cameron Field, the combat cargo team embarkation officer. “We also had company-sized teams of Marines ready to assist with debris clean up at a moment’s notice.” As support efforts continue, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 76 is engaged in Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) activities in Rota, Tinian and Saipan. Two ships within CTF 76, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), are supporting FEMA requests for assistance through the tasking of personnel and distribution of supplies, throughout the CNMI. Following Navy and Marine Corps ESG aerial surveys to ensure safe movement of equipment, multiple types of aerial vehicles are on standby to assist in any future DSCA operations, including an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 and MV-22 Ospreys assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262. “We want to be prepared for anything,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan McAllister, Tactical Control Squadron (TACRON) 12, Detachment 1 assistant officer in charge. “Making sure that our planes are ready to go at any moment for support is our top priority.” To prepare for operations, the ships must position themselves to ensure launch and recovery of aircraft is effective and timely. This is all accomplished through coordination and communication between watch officers on all ships, who must maintain precise time, distance and speed to ensure aircraft have a place to land or refuel. According to McAllister, having a ship in the right place is the most critical aspect of conducting air movement between the islands. “It was fortunate that ship was in the right location for quick aid,” said McAllister, “Our ability to be closer to shore allowed us to be forward pressing and flexible in accomplishing our mission.” ESG continues to work with officials with efforts focused on augmenting and supporting FEMA in conjunction with Guam and local officials.