Helping Haiti: Coast Guard teams assist in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew

Coast Guard Cutter Thetis crewmembers assist the Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and Red Cross members October 12, 2016, to load supplies for the World Food Program at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes. (Coast Guard photo)

Coast Guard Cutter Thetis crewmembers assist the Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and Red Cross members October 12, 2016, to load supplies for the World Food Program at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes. (Coast Guard photo)

Written by: Cmdr. Ted Kim, Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Greenwood and Cmdr. Timothy Sommella

A view of Haiti from a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules airplane crew conducting post-storm damage assessment flights October 5, 2016, following Hurricane Matthew.

A view of Haiti from a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules airplane crew conducting post-storm damage assessment flights October 5, 2016, following Hurricane Matthew.

While Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, was barreling toward Haiti, a small team of Coast Guard officers was hunkered down in a makeshift command center at a house in Port-au-Prince.

The planning and coordination for what became the most destructive storm to hit Haiti in more than 50 years, took place in that makeshift command center and set the tone for the U.S. military response.

Five Coast Guard cutter crews and more than six Coast Guard aircrews provided the first U.S. military response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. Coast Guardsmen Cmdr. Ted Kim, Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Greenwood and Cmdr. Timothy Sommella coordinated and shaped the response.

Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew members from Air Station Clearwater, Florida conduct a pre-flight brief Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 in preparation for a post Hurricane Matthew overflight assessment of Haiti, Bahamas and various surround affected areas. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew members from Air Station Clearwater, Florida conduct a pre-flight brief Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 in preparation for a post Hurricane Matthew overflight assessment of Haiti, Bahamas and various surround affected areas. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Less than 12 hours after Hurricane Matthew passed, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami was the first U.S. military asset to arrive on scene.

At the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the aircrew carried the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Peter Mulrean, the provisional president of Haiti, Jocelerme Privert, and a team of USAID disaster response experts and provided them with their first overflight assessment of the devastation Hurricane Matthew left behind.

The next day, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater provided a similar overflight for the Joint Task Force-Matthew (JTF-M) commander, Navy Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton also facilitated a logistically challenging transport to get the provisional president of Haiti and the U.S. ambassador on the ground in Jeremie, one of the worst hit cities in Haiti. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew transferred the two VIPs and the Coast Guard liaison officer to the cutter before being taken by small boat to a damaged pier in Jeremie.

Jocelerme Privert, president of Haiti, and Peter F. Mulrean, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, inspect damage Haitian communities from a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane conducting a post-storm damage assessment flight October 5, 2016, over Haiti following Hurricane Matthew.

Jocelerme Privert, president of Haiti, and Peter F. Mulrean, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, inspect damage Haitian communities from a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane conducting a post-storm damage assessment flight October 5, 2016, over Haiti following Hurricane Matthew.

The U.S. military response from the U.S. Southern Command eventually grew to more than 20 aircraft, 450 Department of Defense personnel and included two amphibious naval ships carrying 2,600 additional personnel. JTF-M facilitated the delivery of more than 272 metric tons of food, shelter and medical supplies and transported 150 relief personnel to cutoff communities in Haiti.

The Coast Guard was integral to the formation and support of the operation, liaising with local Haitian government officials, providing critical logistics support and serving as a conduit between the joint task force and the U.S. Embassy.

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