By Staff Sgt. James Kennedy BenjaminNovember 19, 2018
SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands -- The American Red Cross and the U.S. armed forces have a long history of working together that dates back more than 100 years. Today, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, that relationship has never been more evident.
The American Red Cross and service members assigned to Joint Task Group-Saipan, Task Force-West, continue to provide direct distribution of emergency supplies to homes of Saipan and Tinian residents, Nov. 18, 2018, since Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Mariana Islands more than three weeks ago.
It was no more than 48 hours after the all clear was given that ARC's direct distribution began, according to a Red Cross external relations member.
"We really started almost immediately," said John Hirsh, the Northern Mariana Islands Chapter executive director. "This is something that is very important to people, particularly right after a storm."
Red Cross personnel and volunteers, with assistance from 9th Mission Support Command Soldiers, continue with house-to-house visits, delivering needed relief supplies. Some of those supplies are tarps, mosquito nets and coils, drinking water, humanitarian daily rations and solar-powered devices.
"We are going out to different villages and distributing Red Cross supplies to those in need," said 1st Lt. Carl Cruz, a Soldier with Echo Company, 9th MSC, assigned to JTG-S, TF-W.
Collaborating with an organization like the American Red Cross has been a great experience, Cruz said.
"We are working as a team, trying to push out as much supplies as we can to the community," Cruz said. "It has been a great team effort between the Red Cross and the U.S. Army Reserve."
As of Nov. 18, 2018, the joint team has distributed 2,905 clean up kits, delivered more than 62,000 Red Cross-provided items, and served 5,093 households, according to ARC personnel. Red Cross will continue emergency supplies distribution in the southern part of the island, then work its way to the north of Saipan.
"We have canvased the entire island of Saipan," Hirsh said. "We have eyes on about 90 to 95 percent of every damaged home on island."
Unlike Typhoon Soudelor, the last major storm that struck Saipan in 2015, the military's involvement with ARC for this operation has been more in depth, contributing to the success of ARCs work, Hirsh said.
"I don't believe they helped us with distribution like they are doing this time," Hirsh said. "They are getting a deeper level of involvement this year which is very important to us in terms of us being able to fulfill our mission of helping relieve the human suffering to the most vulnerable people in our community."
Hirsh said teamwork amongst all agencies will help speed up the recovery effort.
"For a catastrophic event like this, no organization could do it alone," Hirsh said. "We are all working together, collaborating, cooperating, sharing information and sharing resources.
"The goal is to try and help people who are in need and people who are suffering," Hirsh said. "I am really pleased about our relationship with the Department of Defense and all branches of service that are helping the Red Cross and helping our community recover from this catastrophic storm."