Sailors and Marines aboard the guided-missile destroyer Sampson provided disaster relief to the Oceanic country of Tonga Jan. 25 following a series of natural disasters.
Sampson’s efforts are part of a wider international relief operation, with the U.S. Navy working alongside the Australian Defense Force in coordination with troops from France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Fiji and Japan.
MH-60R Seahawk helicopters assigned to the “Scorpions” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 49 aboard the Sampson conducted aerial damage assessments and air-dropped supplies to the local population. According to a Navy press release, the destroyer will remain in the region to provide more disaster relief efforts as needed.
“Team Sampson was poised and ready to join in this effort at a moment’s notice and we’re proud to work with our like-minded partners to assist our friends in their time of need,” Sampson’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Adam Soukup, said in the release.
“Our presence and alliances in the Indo-Pacific allow us to come together quickly to provide aid where it is needed when called upon, ultimately reinforcing our shared values of regional security.”
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted Jan. 15, killing at least three people. According to NASA scientists, the eruption was stronger than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in World War II and was the equivalent of four to 18 megatons of dynamite.
The resulting tsunami waves — which according to Red Cross officials were around 50-feet high — struck the archipelago nation of approximately 100,000 people, displacing citizens and tourists alike while severely damaging national infrastructure. With the eruption also having severed the country’s one underseas cable, online communication with the island nation has been knocked out, leading Red Cross officials to speculate that the true casualty toll of the disaster could be worse.
This is not the first time Sampson crew have provided humanitarian assistance in the Indo-Pacific region; Sampson crewmembers provided disaster relief after an earthquake struck New Zealand in 2016.
Sampson is deployed as part of Task Force 71/ Destroyer Squadron 15 while attached to U.S. 7th Fleet.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.