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 Atlantic waters making way for home Nov. 13.
Marines and Sailors landed 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 during the four-month deployment.
More than 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 Regiments 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, Marines were prepared to respond to a humanitarian assistance operation if a natural disaster were to hit the region.
“The Special-Purpose MAGTF significantly enhanced all aspects of CP10. 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 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 shared training in jungle warfare, jungle survival, amphibious landings, disaster relief operations, and many other Marine Corps-related skills.
“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 Marines are regarded in Central and South America.”
Not only did Marines build camaraderie among foreign militaries, they also built it among 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, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native, 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 they 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 safely after their mission was complete. During CP10, HMM-774 flew more than 1,200 flight hours, moved more than 12,000 passengers and lifted more than 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 ending their deployment.
“No matter what missions came our way, the Marines were able to accomplish the tasks successfully and with discretion,” Richie said.