In the midst of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has labeled as ‘one of the most potentially active hurricane seasons since 2010’, the U.S. Navy Surface Force has mobilized multiple vessels and thousands of Sailors and Marines to support humanitarian and disaster relief (HaDR) operations.
According to the National Weather Service, a hurricane is defined as “an intense tropical weather system with well-defined circulation and sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher” and is measured on a scale, one through five, that estimates potential property damage. This first-ever recorded event of two category four or stronger hurricanes, Hurricane Harvey trailed by Hurricane Irma, making landfall in the continental U.S. in the same year has prompted one of the largest HaDR operations in U.S. Navy history.
The seven surface force ships sent to various locations around Florida, the mid-Atlantic and the Caribbean include: USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS New York (LPD 21), USS Farragut (DDG 99), and USS San Jacinto (CG 56).
U.S. Northern Command endorses these ships as collectively capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy air lift support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment, security, route clearance and water purification. Amphibious ships are particularly well designed for this type of mission as they are designed and built to move Marines ashore and provide sustainable logistic and aviation support.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30 and covers the areas of the North Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, as per the NOAA.
The top priority of the federal government, as multiple federal and state organizations work together to support civil authorities, is to minimize suffering and protecting the lives and safety of those affected by these natural disasters. For such a lethal, war-fighting force, these surface combatants are especially equipped to conquer other mission areas. HaDR is a pillar mission set for the U.S. Navy and these ships’ crews- Sailors and Marines of the finest kind, surface warriors-along with their embarked aircraft.