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December 2017

USNS Spearhead Transports Troops from Sint Maarten to Martinique
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristen Cheyenne Yarber, Southern Partnership Station 17 Public Affairs

Expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) picked up Joint Task Force Leeward Islands (JTF-LI) personnel at Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Sept. 29.

Thirty-one people, including U.S. military personnel and members of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), boarded Spearhead and loaded their equipment into the ship’s mission bay.

“Non-food items and humanitarian aid and disaster relief equipment were loaded onto the ship,” said Lt. John Graff, the operations officer for the military detachment embarked aboard Spearhead.

The leadership element of JTF-LI requested Spearhead’s assistance in transportation and equipment lift from Sint Maarten to the island of Martinique. JTF-LI relocated their headquarters to Martinique after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the previous location of their headquarters.

JTF-LI worked in conjunction with members of USAID to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), after Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island of Sint Maarten.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) typically works with civilians on missions. However, they requested support from the Department of Defense for this specific disaster relief operation.

“OFDA’s mission is to save lives, alleviate human suffering, and reduce the economic and social impact of disasters,” said Kate Legates, the deputy team leader of the Disaster Assistance Response Team. “If there’s a unique capability of the U.S. military to respond to a disaster, we will request it.”

OFDA and JTF-LI maintained two water desalinization operations on Sint Maarten, providing clean water for the residents.

“People who have been affected by the storms have been very appreciative,” said Legates. “We do our best when we are one coordinated U.S. government team. It’s been really great to be a part of that.”

Spearhead continues to provide intra-theater lift support to HA/DR efforts in the Caribbean while deployed as part of Southern Partnership Station 17.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT) supports U.S. Southern Command’s (USSOUTHCOM) joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.