By Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs
Sailors and Marines assigned to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for providing initial disaster relief following hurricanes in 2016 and 2017.
The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) flagship received two awards for its efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
“We don’t go into these type of missions because of awards; we go in looking to make a difference and help as many people as we can,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, Iwo Jima’s commanding officer, who served as the ship’s executive officer during Matthew. “Just a short time ago, the chief of naval operations came aboard and commended the crew for their efforts. Seeing first-hand all of the work put in by the crew during these operations makes me proud that their efforts were recognized.”
While providing support as part of Joint Task Force Matthew, Iwo Jima’s crew and embarked commands provided helicopters to carry 600,000 tons of food and medical supplies to the western part of Haiti. The ship delivered 225 pallets of supplies, including 800 cases of bottled water. It also embarked 11 aircraft and two landing craft adept at making landfall on beaches that storm debris made difficult to access.
Following Hurricane Irma, Iwo Jima and the San Antonio-class transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) steamed off the coast of Key West, Florida, providing initial relief until state and federal agencies could take control of operations.
While on station, Sailors and Marines cleared debris from roadways, distributed food and water, repaired generators and other critical infrastructure such as water-pumping stations. Other efforts included Iwo Jima Sailors participating in engineering-centric, fly-away teams who performed rapid repairs on generators in senior living communities.
The Iwo Jima ARG is deployed to U.S. 6th Fleet in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th MEU and includes Iwo Jima, the New York, the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.