Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) and its embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Bougainville, a region in Papua New Guinea, Thursday, to carry out Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations after volcanic eruptions of Mount Bagana in July displaced numerous communities in the area and cut off access to food and water for them.
America and its embarked Marines are operating in coordination with USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in support of U.S. government efforts for foreign disaster relief. The Papua New Guinea government, in consultation with Autonomous Bougainville Government, requested help following the eruptions.
The amphibious assault ship is currently in the Solomon Sea, with its embarked MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions and SH-60 Seahawks flying emergency assistance and relief supply distribution missions.
“To help transport this life-saving emergency assistance to hard-to-reach locations, the U.S. Department of Defense, upon the request of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, has assigned personnel aboard USS America to help deliver critical relief supplies to these remote locations. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will support USAID emergency assistance efforts providing transport via 31st MEU medium and heavy lift rotary wing and tiltrotor aviation platforms” according to a USAID release
Australia and New Zealand are also providing assistance, with Royal Australian Air Force C-27 and New Zealand Air Force C-130 transports flying in relief supplies to Buka, the capital of Bougainville, on Thursday. The items are being distributed to the disaster areas by America’s embarked aircraft and helicopters.
The America ARG, consisting of America and amphibious transport docks USS New Orleans (LPD-18) and USS Green Bay completed the U.S. – Australian-led multinational exercise Talisman Sabre, held on the east coast of Australia, on Aug. 4. While the Pentagon announced the deployment on Thursday, America already received notice of its tasking earlier and canceled a planned port visit.
America’s commanding officer Capt Manual Pardo announced the canceled port visit in an Aug. 7 letter, posted to the ship’s Facebook page the crew and families.
“As we successfully completed our role in the Talisman Sabre Exercise, last night we had to unexpectedly canceled our planned port visit to meet new tasking, the Team is flexing to prepare for our next mission without missing a beat – in true AMERCIA style”, wrote Pardo, who also added that at the moment there was no impact to the long term schedule of the Japan based ship.
During Talisman Sabre, the America ARG was part of an amphibious task group along with Royal Australian Navy (RAN) amphibious assault ship HMAS Adelaide (L01) and landing ship dock HMAS Choules (L100), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) and landing ship tank JS Shimokita (LST-4002) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) amphibious assault ship ROKS Marado (LPH-6112).
The amphibious task group carried embarked forces from Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the U.S., while its escort group consisted of RAN destroyer HMAS Brisbane (DDG-41) and a RAN submarine, U.S. Navy destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) and littoral combat ship USS Oakland (LCS-24), Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH336) and ROKN destroyer ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH-976). Sustainment support was provided by RAN fleet oiler HMAS Stalwart (A304) and U.S fleet oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO- 199) and dry cargo ship USNS Caezar Chavez (T-AKE-14), according to a Australian release.
Green Bay is currently in Sydney, Australia, having sailed in there on Friday, for the U.S.-Australia – Japan- India Quad alliance Exercise Malabar 2023. New Orleans is on patrol.