SAIPAN HARBOR, Saipan – The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard USS Ashland (LSD 48) arrived in Saipan Aug. 8 and is providing disaster relief in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor.
When the ship was tasked to go to Saipan earlier in the week, Ashland’s Sailors and Marines quickly reconfigured the ship's well deck and flight deck to support equipment and supplies that needed to be transported.
Master Sgt. Hugh Weise, the MEU’s motor transport operations chief, said no task is too tough for the MEU’s vehicles.
“We can move anything, if it’s palletized, if it’s containerized, if it’s just loose bulk type cargo, we can dress trucks to make sure it happens,” Weise said. “Any type of fluid, any type of solid, you need it moved, we can move it.”
One of the top concerns in Saipan is a lack of clean drinking water in many of the affected areas, which is a large part of the cargo Ashland took to the island. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) loaded onto Ashland 89 pallets of drinking water, with each pallet being equivalent to 900 liters and two pallets of water jugs to help with the effort.
Weise said his Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31 will be using several vehicles during distribution.
“The water trucks that we have right now can carry 1,800 gallons on top of each truck,” Weise said. “We have one water trailer that holds 400 gallons, we also have water purification equipment; TWPS (Tactical Water Purification System) and LPS (Lightweight Purification System) that produce about 30,000 gallons of purified water a day. Once they get started, we start pushing out as much fresh water as people can handle.”
Cpl. Jartavious Gunter, a motor transportation operator, said during his trips delivering water he got the chance to see how much the typhoon affected the community. “When we first got there there were a few kids playing basketball, all without shirts, there were trees everywhere, we had just enough space to get vehicles through,” Gunter said.
The water is being taken to 14 community centers which will distribute it to neighboring areas over the next few days.
Willard Brungel, a safety officer for the pier, said Ashland’s presence on his home island is beyond appreciated.
“We really needed you guys,” he said. “What you’ve brought us has made us so happy, all the supplies; over 500 pallets of blankets, water, generators and other supplies, we are very happy to have you guys here and I don’t know how to express everybody’s gratitude. I can tell you from the people of Saipan and myself, we want to thank you guys.”
Ashland, forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan, departed there June 3 for its current patrol. Ashland is assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, which supports maritime security operations, provides crisis response capabilities, and increases theater security cooperation and forward deployed naval presence in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations.