ABOARD USS GUNSTON HALL, Atlantic Ocean --
The Africa Partnership Station 10 Security Cooperation Marine Air Ground Task Force is deploying to Haiti to assist the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in disaster relief efforts after an earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation Jan. 12.
Originally scheduled to deploy to the West African coast to conduct Theater Security Cooperation in Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Liberia, the mission was placed on hold to take part in Operation Unified Response in Haiti.
"We are going there to provide services," said Lt. Col. John C. Golden, commanding officer, SCMAGTF. "The people of Haiti need our help."
The SCMAGTF was scheduled to on-load six amphibious assault vehicles Jan. 16 for their original mission in Africa but received four additional vehicles belonging to the 22nd MEU to further support their new mission.
"The difficult terrain from the devastation can be easily negotiated with the AAVs," said SSgt. Jeremy R. Donaldson, section leader with the Ground Combat Element, SCMAGTF. "My Marines have been trained to provide resupply, security and humanitarian operations. I think we are a tremendous asset that can fulfill all the needs of the Haitian community in their desperate time."
After the AAVs completed on-load, Marines gathered in awe on the weather decks of the Gunston Hall to experience the ear-splitting power of the CH-53E Super Stallion as it delivered water bulls in two separate drops. With all equipment loaded, the Gunston Hall set course straight for Haiti.
Despite the change in mission, the Marines of the SCMAGTF remain flexible and optimistic.
"I prepared for the mission to Africa so I'm hoping we can still go there, but flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the Marine Corps," said Sgt. Nicholas A. Granter, fiscal chief with the Command Element, SCMAGTF. "Obviously it's a huge catastrophe and we have the capability to be ready to go to Africa, and at a moment's notice, change route to Haiti. I feel like I get to use the skills I've learned and put them towards a good cause."
Although Marines had been doing work-ups for their mission in Africa, continuous training has equipped them to be ready for any type of deployment.
"I have been trained thoroughly in my career and that training has prepared me to do anything, whether it's helping out in Haiti, training foreign militaries, or doing a rescue mission," said Granter. "As Marines we are constantly training for deployment, so we are always ready no matter what the mission."
With the training comes teamwork, essential in mission like this this, said Golden.
"We bring additional security force, medical and transportation assets, and are here as a force multiplier to the already formidable capabilities of the 22nd MEU," said Golden. "A great aspect of this mission to Haiti is that one of our APS missions was to train our host nation to conduct humanitarian, disaster, and recovery efforts, and that will now be done for real."