SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands - Service members supporting recovery efforts caused by one of the worst storm systems to ever hit U.S. soil since the 1930s began redeploying back home, Nov. 28-29.
A little more than one month after Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, close to 100 Soldiers with the 9th Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve, and Air Force Airmen with the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, currently assigned to Joint Task Group-Saipan, Task Force-West, redeployed from Saipan back to their homes.
A local public servant shared his past storm experiences and expressed his gratitude to JTG-S members at a redeployment ceremony at the airport.
"We've went through a couple of storms way back, but this is the worst," said Saipan Mayor David Apatang, a retired Army Soldier. "We are very, very happy that you guys came to assist our family here on Saipan. The people of Saipan really appreciate what you guys did."
During the Yutu recovery operations, members of JTG-S worked with Saipan mayor's staff and the Department of Public Works in clearing primary and secondary roads of debris. Those teams collected more than 12,000 cubic yards of debris caused by Yutu.
Other members worked with the American Red Cross members and volunteers distributing relief supplies.
One Red Cross member expressed his appreciation for all their hard work.
"The mission of the American Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering in the face of disasters," said Eli Russ, the deputy assistant director for the American Red Cross recovery efforts for Yutu. "And I would like to think that the mission is well on its way here in Saipan, but I also want to add that mission would have been impossible if it were not for you folks."
The combined effort of JTG-S personnel with ARC members led to providing emergency service supplies to 9,223 homes - just a little over 121,000 individual emergency services supplies, according to a Red Cross official.
According to Apatang, the public was amazed seeing the troops around the island.
"You guys have been out there day and night ... we've seen you around," Apatang said. "And the public said, 'We have never seen so many soldiers here on island.' And they appreciate that. They love you guys, we love you."
For Russ, JTG-S personnel and Red Cross members shared something unique this past Thanksgiving and the past few weeks supporting the recovery operations.
"We have been away from our families," Russ said. "It is a shared sacrifice that they have with us, so as much as we have been able to help the people of Saipan and the rest of the Marianas, our families have been there right by our side."
At the needs of the local government and at the direction of FEMA, the Department of Defense has begun the transition to minimize its footprint in the Mariana Islands, a sure sign that the people of the CNMI are well on their way to a full recovery.
"I know you spent Thanksgiving with us here, away from your family, and that is very hard to do," Apatang said. "Now you are going home to join them for Christmas, so enjoy your holidays. Stay strong Marianas."
After Super Typhoon Yutu hit the islands of Saipan and Tinian Oct. 24, several federal agencies immediately began a coordinated disaster response effort, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Defense and local government, to help the people of these islands recover. DOD forces used in the initial typhoon response have begun redeploying at the direction of FEMA, based on the needs of the local government.