Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, are getting ready to deploy to the Texas Gulf Coast aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge in case they are called upon to help residents struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, officials said.
The Navy is preparing for the Virginia-based Kearsarge and the dock landing ship Oak Hill to get underway in case the ships are needed to help local emergency responders and the National Guard.
“We are continuing to plan and ready assets, should we get the call,” said Lt Cmdr. Brian Wierzbicki, spokesman for Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk. “We have gotten no official tasking as yet.”
Meanwhile, at least six Navy MH-60 Knighthawk helicopters were in Houston Tuesday rescuing civilians as part of a coordinated federal response to massive flooding that has all-but paralyzed the city, the result of Hurricane Harvey that made landfall Aug. 25.
The Marine Corps is working with the Navy to load Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary aboard Kearsarge, which would likely deploy with MV-22B Ospreys, helicopters and small landing craft, officials said on Tuesday. The Corps is working with U.S. Northern Command and federal and state agencies to determine the scope of the mission.
If finally tasked, the Kearsarge and Oak Hill could be underway by late Thursday or Friday, according to a Navy official familiar with those plans. The Marines would be taken by bus from Camp Lejeune to the embark point. This is the same procedure used last year when the Navy sortied ships and Marines to assist Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Kearsarge is currently at sea and would have to pull back into Norfolk to load the Marines and supplies. The official said the earliest that could happen would be Wednesday.
Oak Hill is in port at the Joint Amphibious Base Little Creek and preparing to get underway.
In November 2012, about 320 members of the 26th MEU and the amphibious assault ship Wasp helped New York City and New Jersey residents following Super Storm Sandy.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467 provided transportation for the Marines who went ashore. Both squadrons are based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.
The Marines helped to repair a damaged ferry terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, and then went door-to-door in Staten Island to help residents shovel mud from the flood waters and move heavy appliances that were filled with mud.
Another 87 Marines from the 8th Engineer Support Battalion brought water pumps that removed more than a million gallons of water from a neighborhood in Queens. They pumped more water out of another neighborhood in the borough and helped residents remove debris.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.