US Marine unit headed for Afghanistan now rerouted to Haiti

An example of how stretched our forces are:

Marine unit headed for Afghanistan now rerouted to Haiti

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, set to deploy to support the mission in Afghanistan, is now headed to Haiti first. It's a sign of the depth of the humanitarian crisis.

By Gordon Lubold Staff writer / January 20, 2010
Fort Bragg, N.C.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it would send a second Marine unit to Haiti to support what has become an expanding relief effort for the Defense Department, deepening the American military’s role there.

About 4,000 marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, N.C., who were scheduled to leave for Afghanistan this week, will instead steam to Haiti to support humanitarian relief operations. The unit will still continue on to the Arabian Sea for its scheduled deployment in the coming weeks.

But the decision to re-route the Marines points up the depth of the need for humanitarian assistance in Haiti, which experienced a severe aftershock Wednesday. It also presents the Pentagon with a delicate balancing act, since the already-overstretched US military can ill afford to get mired in a security-and-stabilization mission.

The US must do as much as it can while taking care not to create a false expectation, says Tony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.

“There are strong reasons not to deploy US forces to Haiti because if you do, you get a mission of dependency,” says Mr. Cordesman. “We have to be very, very careful about our rhetoric; amidst a crisis, you want to assure people we will do what we can, but we cannot do what we can’t.”
Avoiding a long-term entanglement

Military officials recognize the need to stay out of Haiti for the long-term, especially as they manage two wars that have already taxed their vast resources.

“We’ll be there only as long as necessary,” said a senior military official at the Pentagon Wednesday. “But between being there as quickly as possible and staying as long as necessary, a lot of those things will be conditions-based, as opposed to time-based.”

The official, who spoke at a briefing by agreement without being named, said it is still too soon to tell if the military’s stay will be weeks, months, or longer.

But while other countries and relief organizations are providing much help, the capabilities of the American government may make it difficult for President Obama to extract the military from Haiti, which has long suffered from enduring poverty, instability, political corruption, and debilitating class divisions. That problem will become even more serious if unrest, now sporadic, expands across the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Those security problems have been limited to “pockets of instability” stemming from he desperation of people in need of food, water, and medical supplies, according to Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, deputy commander of Task Force Unified Response, who briefed reporters Tuesday. But so far the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake last week has been marked by calm.
Haiti first, then Afghanistan

Military officials said the deployment of the 24th MEU to Haiti does not mean its mission to Afghanistan will be scrapped. Instead, the 24th will push off to conduct its mission in in the Arabian Sea – where it will provide support for troops in Afghanistan – only after it's job is done in Haiti.

The 24th will arrive in Haiti with helicopters and ship-to-shore landing craft, and is expected to provide mostly logistical support, lightening the burden on a flotilla of about 20 other Navy ships already there, including the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

Marines from the 24th are not expected to go ashore, though that mission could change. Other ground forces are already headed in. The 22nd MEU arrived in recent days and has already sent about 800 Marines onshore to conduct a humanitarian-assistance mission. Meanwhile, members of the 82nd Airborne Division, based here, have begun to flow into Haiti to help distribute relief supplies and, if needed, help secure areas of unrest.

The 82nd is arriving with the support of the 43rd Airlift Wing based here.

The wing commander said US ground forces and their equipment are starting to flow into Haiti fairly smoothly now.

“You’re seeing better flow, but still, it’s not like you’re going into Chicago,” said Col. James Johnson, the 43rd’s commander.
this is the unit referred to:

More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines of the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (NAS ARG) and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24 MEU) received orders Jan. 19, to deploy to Haiti to conduct Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response (HA/DR) missions.

The NAS ARG departed Norfolk, Va., Jan. 18, for a regularly scheduled deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, but has been ordered to proceed to Haiti after completing its onload of the Marines of the 24 MEU in Morehead City, N.C. The decision to divert NAS

ARG/24 MEU from its planned deployment was made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen based on continuing urgent needs in the Haiti relief effort.

The NAS ARG is composed of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) and the amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story, Va. NAS ARG is commanded by Amphibious Squadron Eight (PHIBRON 8), which includes the Nassau, Ashland, Mesa Verde and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit includes a Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion 9th Marines Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 24; and its Command Element.

The NAS ARG/24 MEU provides combatant commanders with a versatile sea-based force that can be tailored to a variety of missions, including quick reaction crisis response options in maritime, littoral and inland environs in support of U.S. policy. The ARG/MEU will provide an array of helicopter and amphibious landing craft assets, significantly increasing the ability to quickly provide relief supplies where they are most needed. In addition, the Marines assigned to 24 MEU will be able to provide an additional force capable of providing a secure environment for the ongoing relief efforts ashore in Haiti.

An amphibious ready group traditionally deploys with robust medical capabilities, and the NAS ARG/24 MEU is no exception. The medical personnel and facilities aboard the three ARG ships will join the medical efforts already in place in the region to provide vital medical treatment to those in need in Haiti.

The addition of the NAS ARG/24 MEU brings the total number of U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command ships participating in the relief effort to 20, along with their associated Marine Corps units. These forces include:

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)

USS Bataan (LHD 5)

USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44)

USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43)

USS Carter Hall (LSD 50)

USS Normandy (CG 60)

USS Underwood (FFG 36)

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU 22)

USS Nassau (LHD 4)

USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19)

USS Ashland (LSD 48)

24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU 24)

USS Higgins (DDG 76)

USS Bunker Hill (CG 52)

USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51)

USNS Henson (T-AGS-63)

USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2)

USNS Sumner(T-AGS-61)

USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011)

USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams (T-AK 3009)

USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198)

Navy units supporting this effort are under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO). As the Navy component command of U.S. Southern Command, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. Naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Routine operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.

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