PACIFIC OCEAN – The Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local civilian authorities with initial assessment operations in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) following Typhoon Mangkhut Sept 11.

The Department of Defense stood up a Defense Coordination Office and is working in concert with the CNMI Joint Information Center to monitor, assess and plan for possible requests. Commander, Task Force 76 is supporting Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) efforts in Rota, Tinian and Saipan.

Navy and Marine Corps aircraft began aerial surveys of the islands of Rota, Saipan and Tinian, while ESG leadership met with local leaders and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to assess relief priorities. Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, who was joined by commanding officer, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Col. Robert Brodie, and commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 Capt. Jim McGovern, said the ESG is here to provide support to local relief efforts.

“The Presidential Emergency Declaration reflects the seriousness of the situation on the ground in CNMI,” said Cooper. “We are pleased that our Navy-Marine Corps Team is positioned to support FEMA in this important DSCA operation to help the people of CNMI.”

In order to move equipment and personnel to the islands, the ESG team conducted surveys of potential landing sites on all three islands. Aerial surveys were conducted by MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters assigned to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 and MV-22 Ospreys assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262.  Ground surveys were conducted by Sailors from Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, who were flown ashore to assess damage caused by the typhoon.

“Our priority was to find suitable locations clear of debris, large enough to land our LCUs [landing craft, utility] and LCACs [Landing craft, air cushion], that were safe for personnel to conduct operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Louis Peters, officer in charge of NBU 7.

Defense Support of Civil authorities is the process by which the Department of Defense provides support to FEMA, working with Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ civil and local officials. (PR)