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American Forces Press Service

Marine Unit Prepares for Haiti Response

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 – About 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C., are preparing to deploy to provide disaster-relief support in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The Marines will begin loading equipment on three Navy ships – USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall and USS Fort McHenry -- tomorrow, a process Marine Capt. Clark Carpenter, the 22nd MEU public affairs officer, said he expects to take two days.

The unit is tailoring itself for the support mission ahead, with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 from New River, N.C., as its aviation element, providing eight CH-35 helicopters. Four UH-1 Huey helicopters also will deploy with the MEU.

Carpenter said it’s not yet clear what role the Marines will play – lift support, disaster assistance, security support, or a combination of all three – so it’s preparing for whatever it’s asked to do.

“The great thing about a Marine expeditionary unit is that we train to do all of those things,” he said. “We are an extremely flexible organization, and we train to many missions during our pre-deployment work-up period, a six-month-long period when we train for humanitarian relief and disaster recovery operations just like this one.”

The 22nd MEU returned Dec. 5 from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. It sailed through U.S. European Command, serving as its theater reserve force and conducting training missions in Bulgaria and Greece. From there, the Marines transited through the Suez Canal to the 5th Fleet area of operations, serving as Centcom’s theater reserve force. In addition to exercising with Middle Eastern partners, the MEU supported the Bright Star exercise in Egypt and delivered the first 10 Osprey helicopters into Afghanistan.

Upon getting word at 3 a.m. yesterday of the upcoming Haiti mission, 22nd MEU officials began recalling unit members, and they conducted the first crisis action team planning session six hours later, Carpenter said.

“So we have been prudently planning the embarkation of the ships,” Carpenter said. “Right now, the focus is to expeditiously and safely embark these ships and get the equipment we need aboard. We are tailoring a very flexible package to ensure we can accommodate broad requests, because we don’t exactly know the specifics of what we will be doing right now.”

The Haiti mission offers another opportunity for the MEU to demonstrate its flexibility and readiness, Carpenter said.

“Marines stand ready to support any mission that may be asked of them,” he said. “We are exceptional warriors when we are asked to be warriors. But equally important, we are exceptionally compassionate when we need to be compassionate. And these roles we can do equally as well.

“So it’s a great opportunity to highlight the compassion that the United States Marines and United States Navy have and can offer to those in need around the world,” he said.

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