#26th MEU – Marines and the Irma Recovery in US Virgin Islands

By Faye Higbee

The 26th MEU is providing recovery assistance to the US Virgin Islands, who were hit directly with Hurricane Irma at Category 5. St Thomas and the islands were hit extremely hard, leaving a huge trail of destruction that was as if an atomic bomb went off. People were afraid that they would be forgotten as many US assets were sent to Florida. Never fear, the Marines are there, along with numerous other military assets.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

Approximately 1,100 US Marines  are assisting with the recovery effort in the Caribbean, according to the USMC.

According to the USNI,

The combined aircraft on all three ships include three UH-1Y Marine Utility Helicopters, three CH-53E Marine Heavy Lift Helicopters, five MV-22 Marine Tiltrotor aircraft and nine MH-60S Navy Medium Lift Helicopters.

These ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and can assist with providing security operations, route clearance, and water purification, according to the Navy.

The evacuation efforts were well underway as soon as the ships arrived.

USMC photo

The Marines came with 28 Zodiacs, which are relatively small, inflatable boats for search and recovery efforts.

Marines aboard the USS Kearsarge, another amphibious assault ship, and the USS Oak Hill, an amphibious dock landing ship,  arrived on Friday to aid islands already struck by Irma, including the Turks and Caicos Islands, Hispaniola, St. Thomas, Barbuda, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, commonly known as St. Barts.

The USS Iwo Jima, USS New York & aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln were dispatched to Florida, while the USS Kearsarge, USS Oak Hill  and USS Wasp were deployed to assist the Caribbean.

The USVI- US Virgin Islands – St John, St Thomas and St Croix are United States Citizens. Up to 200,000 people live on the islands. Marines and their Navy counterparts are well versed in disaster deployment – they will get the job done.

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