USS Sampson (DDG 102) file photo. (U.S. Navy/PO2 Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - The U.S. Navy is supporting recovery efforts in response to the earthquake in New Zealand. In addition to a maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, USS Sampson (DDG 102) and its two embarked MH-60R Seahawk helicopters is now, at the request of the New Zealand government, on its way to Kaikoura to support disaster relief efforts.

USS Sampson, a U.S. Navy destroyer whose crew just days ago conducted a passing exercise with Her Majesty's New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Endeavour, a Royal New Zealand Navy fleet replenishment oiler, has altered course to join the New Zealand-led task force efforts.

"American presence matters, as shown yet again today," said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command. "Our prayers go out to our friends in New Zealand as they deal with another devastating earthquake on the South Island. But more than that, our help also goes out. At the request of the New Zealand government, the USS Sampson and her two embarked MH-60R helicopters will join the U.S. P-3 (maritime patrol aircraft) that's already on station there in support of the disaster relief effort in New Zealand."

Sampson was already transiting the Western Pacific en route to Auckland, New Zealand, to participate in the Royal New Zealand Navy's International Naval Review commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Sampson's visit to New Zealand will be the first in 30 years for a U.S. Navy ship.

Sampson is assigned to U.S. 3rd Fleet and is currently on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. Though operating in the Western Pacific, an area historically controlled by the 7th Fleet commander, Sampson will remain assigned to the 3rd Fleet commander.

A P-3C Orion assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 47 was participating in Exercise Mahi Tangaroa as part of the New Zealand International Naval Review when the earthquake struck and has been tasked with assessing the area surrounding Kaikoura. The P-3C was operating from Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland in Whenuapai.

VP-47 is a U.S. Navy squadron based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. The P-3C Orion is a four-engine, turboprop maritime patrol aircraft with the endurance and ability to conduct wide-area maritime search operations, which gives the aircraft an advantage for search-and-rescue missions.

The U.S. Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy regularly operate and train together in engagements such as the U.S.-led biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise and the annual Pacific Partnership disaster response preparedness mission. Our militaries also participate in the New Zealand-led biennial Southern Katipo exercise and the annual Tropic Twilight humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exercise.

File photo of an MH-60R Seahawk landing aboard USS Sampson (DDG 102). (U.S. Navy/PO1 Brett Cote)