SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras (Army News Service, Nov. 6, 2007) - A team of 19 Soldiers, Airmen and two helicopters from U.S. Southern Command's Joint Task Force Bravo departed here Monday en route to the Dominican Republic, where they will assist with recovery efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Noel.

The team and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were loaded on a C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft from the New York Air National Guard in the morning and arrived later that day.

"We'll be doing search and rescue missions," said Sgt. Jose Burgos-Mercado, one of the Soldiers deploying with the team. He added that a lot of people are still missing, so the team would help look for them in addition to moving relief supplies.

The task force's team consisted mostly of aircrew and search and rescue personnel.

Two additional UH-60 Blackhawks from the Puerto Rico National Guard deployed to the Dominican Republic on Saturday and are conducting search and rescue missions in the San Isidro area.

A humanitarian assistance survey team from U.S. Army South, based in San Antonio, Texas, is also in the country and will meet today with representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to assess additional humanitarian needs and identify support requirements.

Also on Saturday, a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard delivered 27 crates of potable water to San Isidro Air Base for distribution to victims impacted by the storm.

Three U.S. Coast Guard helicopters are also assisting with ongoing search and rescue operations and the delivery of emergency provisions. The U.S. Coast Guard crews have saved 54 lives and delivered 29,278 food rations and 74,970 water rations to survivors.

The USSOUTHCOM deployments follow a disaster declaration announced by U.S. ChargAfA de Affaires Roland W. Bullen on Oct. 31, paving the way for U.S. assistance to the Caribbean nation.

To date, USAID has contributed approximately $959,000 in aid and assistance to the Dominican Republic in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Noel.

U.S. military assistance to a foreign nation is normally requested by the host nation through the U.S. ambassador. Then, as the lead federal agent, OFDA fields the request and asks the Department of Defense for military assistance, if needed.

USSOUTHCOM military planners continue to work with interagency partners and their counterparts in countries affected by Noel to assess recovery needs in the affected areas and identify additional U.S. military units that may be able to provide assistance.

In the past 25 months, USSOUTHCOM has supported a dozen disaster relief missions in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

(1st Lt. Erika Yepsen works for the Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs Office.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16