ABOARD USS BATAAN --
Marines and sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard USS Bataan are scheduled to return to their home base of Camp Lejeune, N.C., during the first week of April after supporting Operation Unified Response in Haiti since Jan. 18.
United States Southern Command released the 22nd MEU and USS Bataan following the transition of relief efforts in the Caribbean nation from urgent life-saving actions to longer-term recovery.
Marines and Sailors of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, were the first large-scale Navy and Marine Corps team to arrive to the call of the Haitian people, immediately focusing on providing medical support, supplies, food and water ashore to those in need after 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country.
On Jan. 13, the MEU received deployment orders to Haiti in order to provide immediate aide and direct relief to the earthquake stricken country five weeks after returning from a seven-month deployment in support of theater security operations in the U.S. Central and U.S. European commands' area of responsibility.
Throughout February and March, the 22nd MEU further enabled relief efforts by working with local and national government leaders, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations who took over primary responsibilities of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations within the MEU's area of responsibility.
While supporting relief operations, the Marines and Sailors of the 22nd MEU combined a network of sea-based logistics and land-based support with as many as 1,100 Marines and Sailors ashore to conduct immediate aid efforts. The Marines focused on a 60-kilometer area west of Port-Au-Prince, from Carrefour to Leogane, through Grand Goave to Petit Goave. In order to move and distribute supplies in these areas, Marines and Sailors partnered with the United Nations, United States Agency for International Development, non-governmental organizations, and Canadian and Spanish military forces.
"The Marines and Sailors of the MEU are true professional ambassadors of our great nation and I am extremely proud of their dedication and the professionalism they exhibited answering the call to assist in the relief efforts in Haiti," said Col. Gareth F. Brandl, 22nd MEU commanding officer. "We are honored to be able to make a difference."
Marines from the 22nd MEU assisted the World Food Program with the delivery of more than 3.2 million pounds of bulk foods, such as rice, for earthquake survivors at distribution points in and around Carrefour. According to the WFP, each bag of rice delivered can feed a family of five for two weeks — more than 55,000 families. During their relief assistance to Haiti, the Marines and Sailors conducted and assisted more than 1500 humanitarian relief missions.
"As we close our time in support of Operation Unified Response-Haiti, I look back with great pride on the contributions the Navy and Marine Corps team made to the people of Haiti," said Lt. Col. Robert Fulford, the commanding officer for Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. "We represented the heart and compassion of the United States, directly translating into tangible impacts in the lives we touched — from Petit Goave, Grand Goave, Leogane and Carrefour."
Fulford explained that the resilience and goodness of the Haitian people withstood the devastating quake, serving as motivation and inspiration for his Marines and sailors from the moment they landed in Leogane on Jan. 19. He continued that the people of Haiti have a bright future based on these foundations. "We served as enablers to bring this future into reality and I couldn't be more proud to have been a small part of this effort," Fulford said.
The 22nd MEU independently delivered nearly 560,000 liters of bottled water and nearly 195,000 gallons of bulk water; more than 1.6 million pounds of rations and approximately 15,000 pounds of medical supplies, while rotary wing aircraft from the 22nd MEU flew more than 610 flight hours and 618 missions in direct support of Operation Unified Response to aid those affected by the earthquake.
Medical and dental personnel from the MEU worked alongside Navy Corpsmen to treat earthquake survivors and evacuated numerous Haitian citizens to USS Bataan for additional medical care.
Units that previously returned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., include the majority of Combat Logistics Battalion 22, the Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon, and elements of Kilo Company, BLT 3/2, all embarked aboard USS Carter Hall. A small detachment from HMH-461(Reinforced) also returned to New River Air Station earlier this month. On March 11, the MEU redeployed elements of BLT 3/2, specifically assault amphibian vehicles and India Company, embarked aboard USS Fort McHenry, from the U.S. Southern Command Theater of Operations to Camp Lejeune, N.C. This was part of a phased return of the MEU to Camp Lejeune as conditions within Haiti continued to progress and immediate military assistance was no longer required.
The MEU is comprised of heavy-lift and utility helicopters, trucks and humvees, assault amphibian vehicles and logistics capabilities to include water purification and limited medical support. The unit reconstituted all of its forces at sea upon completion of the humanitarian relief missions ashore.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission-capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.
In addition to Bataan, the ARG also included USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC 22), Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron (HM) 14, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21 (TACRON 21), Fleet Surgical Team 8 (FST 8), Assault Craft Unit 4 (ACU 4) and Beachmaster Unit 2 (BMU 2). Together with 2,200 Marines and 1,200 sailors and 21 rotary-wing aircraft, they make up the Bataan ARG and 22nd MEU.