Navy and Marine Corps pitching in for Irma relief

Sailors and Marines loaded supplies onto USS Iwo Jima and USS New York at Naval Station Norfolk, gearing up to help with post Hurricane Irma relief if needed.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- The US Navy and the Marines are preparing to do their part to assist, once again.
On Thursday at Naval Station Norfolk, the USS Iwo Jima and the New York loaded up equipment, food and water.

For the amphibious vessels, it's a true case of hurry up and wait. They don't even have official orders, they're simply gearing up to be in a position to help, once Hurricane Irma has passed.

"Hurricanes are obviously unpredictable," said Captain James Midkiff, commanding officer f the Iwo Jima. "We don't know where they're going to go. So wherever they need help, that's where we're going to be tasked to go."

Once they do get orders, Midkiff said his team will be ready.

"This ship is a multi-mission ship. We have an airport. We can launch the small craft with bulldozers and things that can get up and clear roads. We can deliver aid, we have a hospital on board with three operating rooms."

Marine Expeditionary Unity 26 member Staff Sergeant Scott Sauer agreed, that the Iwo Jima and New York bring much capability.

"We can provide limited electrical support, we can purify water to help those guys out, provide fuel for vehicles  to move around, things of that matter," he said. "We also have logisticians with us to provide basic supplies, food, things of that nature."

In all, it'll be 300 Marines, 420 sailors on the New York, and 1,100 sailors on the Iwo Jima at the ready, prepared to pitch in. In addition, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, which just returned from Hurricane Harvey relief, will also deploy.

"It's an honor to come together with the Navy and Marine Corps team, get on these ships. They got up as fast as they could to get us on board and underway," said Master Chief Master Jay Wheeler of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two. "And it's a huge honor to get down there and help whoever we can help out."

On Thursday afternoon, the USS Wasp arrived in the U.S. Virginia Islands. The Navy said the USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill will also support relief efforts there.

The Navy said the Wasp, the first Navy platform to arrive in the vicinity of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is providing medium and heavy lift helicopters to transport people and supplies. Wasp's helicopters are conducting medical evacuations for intensive care patients from St. Thomas to St. Croix and conducting site assessments on the initial damage in St. Thomas.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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