NORFOLK, Va. — For the Norfolk-based amphibious transport dock USS Arlington, as far as deployments go, this one was pretty small--just a matter of days. However, its contribution was huge.
When disaster struck Haiti on August 14, the Arlington answered the call to duty.
One day after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the island nation, killing more than 2,200 people, injuring 12,000 people and destroying more than 150,000 homes, U.S. Southern Command established Joint Task Force Haiti to go render assistance.
The Arlington was one of the ships picked to help.
420 sailors and around 200 Marines shipped out on the 17th, and they got there two days later.
"We could see just from the shore, about two miles off, just the house collapsed, multiple buildings destroyed," said Captain Eric Kellum, USS Arlington Commanding Officer.
From there, it was around the clock operations for the crew, who joined the task force and served as a kind of floating airport for military helicopters.
They delivered 113,000 pounds of critically needed food, water and medical supplies to desperate Haitians and supplied 800,000 meals, which is said to have been enough to feed around 10,000 children for a month.
The sailors and Marines were proud to help.
"I've talked to many of them and without fail, they just felt humbled, really," said Kellum. "And really, like you know, a lot of times, we do things and we know it makes a difference for national security. But when you're handing a box of food to somebody who clearly needs it, right? A tremendous impact, So, yeah, it was pretty awesome."
In its entirety, the Department of Defense response involved 19 helicopters, six ships, eight transport aircrafts and 1,200 personnel.
With the military mission complete, the humanitarian response in Haiti has now been turned over to USAID-- the United States Agency for International Development.