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Pentagon diverts 2 warships, Marine expeditionary unit for Hurricane Irma relief

By CAROL ROSENBERG | Miami Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 5, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Tuesday that it was putting two U.S. Navy ships staffed with Marines on standby to help FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis “approved the use of USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill along with the Marine Corps to support FEMA response operations for Hurricane Irma,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb.

It was, however, too early to know where the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and the landing ship Oak Hill would go, what they would be used for or if they would be necessary. But the designation meant the two Virginia-based ships along with Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit would not be used to support relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, as previously planned.

Babb also said the Pentagon had made a list of “possible installation support bases used for prepositioning equipment and supplies,” essentially locations to put relief supplies if shipments elsewhere are required. “But these locations will depend on the track that Hurricane Irma takes.”

The Navy said last month that the Kearsarge and Oak Hill were “leaning forward to fully support FEMA and Texas” in the aftermath of Harvey. It said the two ships are “capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment and security.”

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©2017 Miami Herald

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USS Oak Hill transits the Gulf of Suez in 2011.
DEPT OF DEFENSE PHOTO

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