SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands - Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and federal officials announced that the Department of Defense disaster relief mission on Saipan is coming to a close.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tasked the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard to help the island after Typhoon Soudelor swept through, Aug. 2-3. FEMA has submitted one final mission assignment for the Marine Corps to provide water to island residents through the end of the week. Pending that assignment, most of the military mission will be complete.
"It's been a joint effort since the beginning," said Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, Commander, Joint Region Marianas. "We are committed to support this effort until we can move from the relief into the recovery stage."
The Coast Guard was first-on-scene, Aug. 5, to transport response officials and to assess Saipan's shipping channel and port. The crew worked to restore aids to navigation, buoys and lights, and cleared debris throughout the harbor to allow safe navigation.
The Navy and Marine Corps followed soon after, as dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, arrived Aug. 9. They transported supplies and relief equipment during two separate trips from Guam.
"I want to thank [the Navy] and the Marines and all of the military who are helping out," CNMI Gov. Eloy S. Inos said. "They did some great work."
The Air Force's 36th Contingency Response Group also arrived Aug. 9 and unloaded water, tents and cots at the Saipan International Airport. Their unique forklifts and large cargo planes delivered critical supplies at a critical time.
The 9th Mission Support Command's Tanapag Army Reserve Center is being used by FEMA as an operations center and staging area for generators, communications systems, food and water. The Army Corps of Engineers Power Planning and Response Team, along with the Army's 249th Engineer Battalion, assessed, installed and maintained emergency generators at water wells and other critical facilities.
In total, the military team provided more than 200,000 gallons of water and 47,000 meals to the people of Saipan.