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USS Saipan Strike Group Ships Complete Humanitarian Assistance Exercise, Caribbean Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050311-02
Release Date: 3/11/2005 10:51:00 AM

From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- More than 1,000 USS Saipan (LHA 2) Sailors returned to Norfolk March 9 after deploying to the Caribbean over the last several weeks.

During the deployment, ships of the Saipan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) consisting of Saipan, USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and USS Trenton (LPD 14), and the Norfolk-based helicopter detachment Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six (HC) 6, supported an annual humanitarian assistance exercise in Haiti entitled New Horizons.

"We were there for about three and a half weeks establishing the New Horizons task force to build schools and drill wells," said Capt. Chris Chace, Saipan ESG commander.

More than 50 members of the U.S. Navy's 22nd Construction Regiment, with as much as 1,200 tons of supplies, embarked Saipan and supported the humanitarian effort, and provided medical support to the victims of Hurricane Jeanne. Those service members remain in Haiti as work there continues.

Additionally, elements of the strike group conducted Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), counter-drug training and multinational exercises with marines from Honduras and Colombia. During visits to Honduras, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Curacao, Sailors participated in local community projects and made donations in support of the Navy's Project Handclasp, promoting cultural understanding and friendship between the U.S. and its neighbors.

"FRP (Fleet Response Plan) gives the Navy a lot of flexibility on how we deploy ships," said Capt. Christopher A. Hase, Saipan commanding officer. "Because we are a ship that is capable of deploying, and at the time were not required to support 5th Fleet, [this deployment] provided a great opportunity for 2nd Fleet to work with NAVSOUTH (U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command) and U.S. Southern Command in sending us to the Caribbean, where we were greatly needed."

The exercise constituted the first deployment of elements of an ESG to the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command area of responsibility and provided opportunities for the United States to partner with its neighbors in bringing relief to hurricane-ravaged Haiti, while also providing a considerable maritime presence in the Caribbean.

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