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GTMO Critical to Supporting Operation Unified Response

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100129-12
Release Date: 1/29/2010 3:59:00 PM

From Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba is playing a crucial role in supporting Operation Unified Response, the international humanitarian mission providing relief to earthquake-devastated Haiti.

GTMO and U.S. Southern Command's Task Force 48 are operating a joint logistics hub in an effort to move necessary supplies and personnel to and from Port-au-Prince.

GTMO is located approximately 170 miles northwest of Haiti, making it the logical staging area to allow the quick movement of supplies from the United States to Haiti. The naval station provides air and sea receiving and transport capabilities, and once the supplies, equipment and personnel arrive in GTMO, they are expediently moved by ship or aircraft to Haiti.

Since the earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, GTMO has seen a significant increase in activity, mainly on air support. The base transitioned from approximately three flights per day to more than forty-five air evolutions.

GTMO's highly trained airfield staff, comprised of military members, government civilians and contractors, were able to easily transition to the increased workload.

Airfield staff assist with landings and take-offs, while other Sailors work to load and offload water, tents and personnel destined for Haiti.

To expedite necessary medical care, GTMO Commanding Officer Capt. Steven H. Blaisdell requested permission from Cuba for U.S. military aircraft to transport medical evacuees through their airspace en route to Florida.

Blaisdell and his counterpart from the Cuban Militia Brigade coordinated the request and Cuban authorities immediately granted their permission. The agreement, signed Jan. 22 by both parties, saves nearly an hour of flight time from GTMO to Florida.

Initiated as a medevac request, the coordination ultimately allowed military and civilian aircraft to transit through Cuban airspace, carrying both humanitarian relief supplies and medical evacuees.

There has also been a significant increase of traffic at GTMO ports, with U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and allied ships moored at wharfs and piers to refuel and resupply as they travel toward Haiti with humanitarian supplies and equipment. As ships arrive in GTMO, port operations and security personnel are on-hand to provide replenishment of necessary water, food and fuel before the vessels continue to Haiti.

As the only military installation in the Navy's Southeast Region that produces its own water and electricity, providing sufficient utilities is an important issue for the base's Public Works department. To meet the increased water and power requirements, five mobile power plants are being shipped to Guantanamo from Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Calif.

To ensure grocery inventory levels remain constant to serve families residing in GTMO and the influx of transient personnel, the Navy Exchange (NEX) ordered more than 3-months inventory of additional food, water and other supplies.

"Orders are being processed to increase inventory levels of basic needs items and water to support throughput on the island, while maintaining normal levels of support to the permanent residents," said GTMO NEX Store Manager Don Mohlman. "We are exploring other re-supply options, such as additional barges and airlift in our planning process."

In addition to the GTMO NEX bolstering supplies, the station's galleys are responsible for preparing more meals, now serving approximately 7,000 meals per day with one facility maintaining a 24-hour schedule.

While Operation Unified Response continues as a high priority for the United States and the international community, GTMO will remain the logistic hub for personnel, supplies and equipment, with the base's airfields and ports supporting the mission.

For more news from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, visit www.navy.mil/local/guantanamo/.



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