Friday, September 08, 2017

DoD Responding to ‘Catastrophic’ Destruction in Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2017 — The Defense Department is responding to "catastrophic" levels of destruction throughout the Leeward Islands, including the islands of St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, DoD spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said today in a statement.

Open source media reports a total of 23 fatalities in the affected region, he said. “Preliminary property damage assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency describe ‘massive devastation,’” Davis said, “including ‘complete power/communications collapse’ in the [U.S. Virgin Islands], and substantial damage to a local hospital. Irma struck Puerto Rico a glancing blow, leaving 70 percent of the population -- more than 1 million customers -- without power.”

Irma is forecast to impact Florida in the next 36 hours as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, the colonel said, with life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state and the danger of storm surges of up to 12 feet in southwest Florida and the Florida Keys if peak surge coincides with high tide.

DoD Response

U.S. Northern Command commander Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson is leading DoD's domestic response and is generating forces in response to FEMA requests, Davis said. DoD components, including the Defense Logistics Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, are posturing to provide significant additional assets and support as needed.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp evacuated about 21 critically ill patients yesterday from the damaged hospital on St. Thomas, with at least 23 more planned for today, Northcom officials said. The amphibious assault ships USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill -- carrying Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and FEMA personnel -- are supporting response operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including patient evacuation.

U.S. Transportation Command is supporting the aeromedical evacuation and will evacuate additional patients this evening.

Ten MH-60R Seahawk helicopters were loaded aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to support defense support of civil authorities operations before the ship departed Norfolk, Virginia, earlier today, Davis said. The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima and amphibious transport dock USS New York are loading a second maritime defense support of civil authorities package and plan to depart Norfolk today and proceed to the Caribbean region, he added.

The Army Corps of Engineers is assisting with disaster assessment in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today, the colonel said, and will have power restoration teams in the area tomorrow. The corps is monitoring Lake Okeechobee to prepare for the possibility that heavy winds push floodwaters over the dike holding the lake. Florida has initiated the precautionary evacuation of sparsely populated counties to the south, he said.

The Defense Logistics Agency has shipped more than a million shelf-stable meals to St. Thomas and 1.7 million liters of water to San Juan, Puerto Rico, via sealift, and is redistributing Hurricane Harvey commodities in support of the response to Irma, Davis said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated 4,000 National Guardsmen and National Guard Bureau officials said they expect a request from him for an additional 20,000 troops. National Guardsmen from as far away as California have been mobilized in anticipation of the storm, National Guard Bureau officials said yesterday.

Northcom Supporting Hurricane Irma Response

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Sept. 8, 2017 — U.S. Northern Command is fully engaged with federal, state, territorial and international mission partners as the command continues its planning, pre-positioning and initial Defense Department response efforts for Hurricane Irma.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, located near the U.S. Virgin Islands, is conducting medical evacuations for critical care patients from St. Thomas to St. Croix and performing damage assessments in support of the local government. They also are transporting people and supplies to the affected areas with medium and heavy lift helicopters.

Crews have so far conducted six search and rescue missions and evacuated about 21 patients, with another 23 patients planned for evacuation today.

The amphibious assault ships USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill, carrying Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are approaching the disaster area and will be postured north of St. Croix, ready to provide assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The ships have rotary-wing assets to provide search and rescue support and personnel transportation.

The Air Mobility Command has dispatched C-17 Globemaster III aircraft carrying all-terrain vehicles, forklifts, Humvees, pallets of supplies and crew -- including contingency response and medical personnel -- are supporting ongoing relief efforts in St. Croix and St. Thomas.

Northcom is providing urban search and rescue capabilities to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with lifesaving and life-sustaining efforts.

DoD is also leaning forward to support states that may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Defense Logistics Agency is providing about 50,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 50,000 gallons of diesel to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, in support of potential requirements.

Northcom strongly recommends for those who may be affected by Hurricane Irma to listen and adhere to the guidance given by local authorities.

Conference Attendees Discuss Indo-Asia-Pacific Regional Security

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robin Peak U.S. Pacific Command

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Sept. 8, 2017 — The recently concluded annual U.S. Pacific Command Chiefs of Defense Conference, this year co-hosted by Canada and the United States, provided a forum for 26 senior Indo-Asia-Pacific military leaders to strengthen military-to-military relationships, discuss common defense issues and foster regional cooperation.
Senior military leaders, including Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific

The conference was held here from September 4-6. Topics of discussion included the threat from North Korea, trends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area, combating and preventing violent extremism and peace support operations.

"We share many challenges in the Indo-Asia Pacific, but through bilateral and multilateral engagements like these and cooperation with other nations in the region, I am confident that when we face these challenges together, we will prevail together,” said Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris, Pacom’s commander.

Canadian Army Gen. Jonathan H. Vance, chief of the defense staff, said he was honored to co-host this year’s conference with Harris.

Defense, Security Issues

“This was the first time the event was held in Canada, and I want to sincerely thank the organizers for their hard work in making it a success,” Vance said. “This was an excellent opportunity to discuss a wide range of defense and security issues with our Asia-Pacific partners, which only serves to enhance security and confidence in the region."

Senior enlisted leaders also came to the conference to discuss ways to bolster and promote leadership in the enlisted ranks.

“A vested enlisted force, developed through programs of merit, can more precisely understand, translate and transmit the commander’s intent, which allows the commander more strategic bandwidth during operations,” Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Anthony A. Spadaro, Pacom’s senior enlisted leader, said during one meeting.

Topics discussed by the senior enlisted leaders’ portion of the conference included the importance of noncommissioned officer development and multilateral training opportunities between partner nations.

Senior Enlisted Leaders

The group consisted of sixteen senior enlisted leader representatives from throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Spadaro said he hopes to increase that number to twenty members for the 2018 CHODS conference.

With allies and partners, Pacom is committed to enhancing stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region by promoting security cooperation, encouraging peaceful development, responding to contingencies, deterring aggression, and when necessary, fighting to win. This approach is based on partnership, presence, and military readiness.

“I was extremely pleased to talk with so many of our allies and partners in the region this week to enhance our military relationships, regional collaboration and discuss our shared security concerns,” Harris said.