ATLANTIC OCEAN, USS Iwo Jima --
After four months of providing humanitarian assistance to eight countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 steamed through the Atlantic waters making way home, Nov. 13.
Marines and sailors stepped foot on Haiti, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Guyana and Suriname assisting Navy, Army and Air Force personnel at medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and community relations sites throughout the entirety of the four-month deployment.
Approximately 500 Marines and sailors comprised in a Special-Purpose MAGTF to include a Command Element, (Marine Air Control Squadron 2); Logistics Combat Element, (Combat Logistics Regiment 25 and 27); Aviation Combat Element, (Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774); and Ground Combat Element, (Company A, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion).
The Marine Corps’ role during the deployment was to provide air, ground and logistics support to the Navy’s humanitarian civic assistance mission. In addition, the Marines were prepared to respond to a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief crisis if a natural disaster were to hit the region.
“The Special-Purpose MAGTF significantly enhanced all aspects of CP-10. Our Marines worked closely with all service members to accomplish this mission,” said Lt. Col. Chris S. Richie, commanding officer of Special-Purpose MAGTF. “The Marines of CP10 did an outstanding job and each element played a vital role in the overall success of the operation.”
Marines with the GCE, Company A, 2nd AA Bn., conducted subject-matter expert exchanges with the Costa Rican police force and militaries in Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Suriname. During the 10-day exchanges, Marines and foreign militaries joined efforts and knowledge in jungle warfare, jungle survival, amphibious landings, disaster relief operations, Marine Corps martial arts, leadership and weapons classes, swim qualifications, and combat and physical fitness training.
“One of the greatest benefits we in the GCE received from these exchanges was a new found respect for other cultures and the professionalism of our partner nations,” said Capt. Lynn W. Berendsen, commanding officer of 2nd AA Bn. “We learned honor, courage and commitment are important to other militaries, and we warriors share many of the same values and challenges. I personally was humbled by how highly U.S. Marines are regarded and looked up to by our friends in Central and South America.”
Not only did Marines build camaraderie with foreign militaries, they also built it within each other. LCE Marines collaborated with the ACE in transporting food supplies, mail, fuel and cargo from shore to ship and ship to shore. Marine combat engineers with the LCE worked directly with Navy Seabees in every country by building roofs, playgrounds, bathroom facilities, drainage systems, fences, storage huts and cement platforms.
“Our construction work is going to help these people in the long run,” said Lance Cpl. Frantz Rosemond, from Brooklyn, N.Y., and electrician with 8th ESB. “Everything we did in these countries is something they’ll remember us by. The children are smiling and having fun on the playgrounds we built, and it is because of us that they can now have a place to enjoy with the community.”
The dual rotors of eight CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from HMM-774 played an essential role in moving CP10 personnel ashore to provide assistance. Marine pilots, crew chiefs and load masters ensured all personnel needing to go ashore, traveled to the correct destination on time and returned after their mission was complete. During CP10, HMM-774 flew over 1,200 flight hours, moved over 12,000 passengers and lifted over 750,000 pounds of cargo. Approximately 160 aircrew and maintenance personnel provided air transportation to Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen and civilians.
HMM-774 also played a vital role in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas after it hit the southern peninsula of Haiti, Nov. 5. Due to its first response capability, the Special-Purpose MAGTF and CP10 were called upon to be prepared for possible disaster relief efforts. Marines and sailors were conducting operations in Suriname when they were redirected by U.S. Southern Command.
Marines flew over the country for an aerial damage assessment that provided key leaders with crucial information about the effects of the hurricane. Although Marines and sailors were prepared to assist Haiti further, the country’s key leaders, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, and U.S. Agency for International Development were able to provide the necessary relief. After spending six days off the coast of Haiti, the USS Iwo Jima sailed to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for final preparations before heading back to North Carolina.
“No matter what missions came our way, the Marines were able to accomplish the tasks successfully and with distinction,” Richie said.
For more information on the Continuing Promise 2010 Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, please visit the unit’s official website at http://www.marines.mil/unit/2ndMAW/SPMAGTF.