CGC Forward operations after Hurricane Tomas

Post Written by ENS Andrew Cinque

Canal de Tortue

CGC Forward conducting shore assessments in the Canal de Tortue after Hurricane Tomas' landfall in Haiti. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Mother Nature is relentless, often striking with little warning or notice. The people of Haiti are all too familiar with her power, as 2010 brought earthquakes, flooding and hurricanes to the island nation. Through each disaster, the Haitian people and government’s ever-present determination to prevail has been apparent, but there is another common factor…the presence of CGC Forward.

The year opened with a devastating earthquake felt throughout the Caribbean leaving millions without shelter or food. Forward was the first U.S. warship to arrive on-scene providing medical assistance, humanitarian aid and reassuring the Haitian community of the support of the U.S. government. For their actions during the recovering effort, Forward was awarded a Unit Commendation.

Port au Paix

Dramatic tidal rises and sea waves reach up on shore and threaten to destroy homes and buildings along the waterline in Port au Paix on the Northern Shore of Haiti. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

In early November, without mercy, Mother Nature imposed her will again as a tropical depression formed and intensified into Hurricane Tomas. With Tomas’ storm track on a course to pass just west of Haiti, Forward, manned by the crew of CGC Tampa, positioned itself to respond once again.

The Coast Guard and Department of Defense resources went on alert and prepared for the worst. Operational commanders from Coast Guard Atlantic Area, District 7 and U.S. Southern Command pre-positioned assets to provide assistance and assess damage well before Tomas made land fall.

Vessel washed ashor

A large, freshly painted fishing vessel washed up ashore in Port au Paix. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

After seeking shelter until the storm passed, Forward and the USS Iwo Jima head towards the island in support of the government of Haiti. While the crew of Iwo Jima directed their efforts inside Haiti’s “North Claw” and the areas around the capitol of Port Au Prince, Forward patrolled Haiti’s north coast and areas around Isle de Tortue. Less than 24 hours after the storm passed, Forward began providing damage assessments to emergency response planners.

The day after Tomas’ landfall, Forward’s small boat crews, boarding teams and an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen were deployed to survey damage and aid the Haitian people. The teams conducted port assessments of Port Au Paix and Cap Haitien as well as an assessment of various seaside villages near Cap du Mol.

After arriving back to their homeport of Portsmouth, Va. earlier this week, the crew reflected on their most recent assignment. Despite the challenges Mother Nature presents to Haiti, one thing is for certain: Coast Guard Cutter Forward is standing the watch, ready to respond.