U.S. Navy Ships Complete Hurricane Relief Mission in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lands on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in the Caribbean Sea in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico, October 3, 2017. U.S. Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy ships USS Wasp and USS Oak Hill have been pulled from hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following a determination that the ships were no longer needed for the mission, the Navy announced Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Defense made the decision to redeploy the ships after assessing the need for the continued use of assets assigned to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes that hit U.S. territories in September.

The Navy said the decision was part of the broader planning effort to transition from hurricane response to hurricane recovery and was made in consultation with Puerto Rico’s governor.

“USS Wasp (LHD 1) and USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) are some of the assets no longer needed. They have provided great value to the overall response effort, contributing search and rescue capabilities that saved lives. They are now proceeding on to their next missions in defense of our nation,” the Navy said in a statement released Thursday.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) were both ordered to get underway to the U.S. Virgin Islands in early September after Hurricane Irma ravaged parts of the Caribbean.

By the end of September, the Defense Department ordered the USS Wasp to move from providing support to the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica to expand rescue and relief operations in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria’s landfall. The USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), which initially got underway from Norfolk, Virginia in late August in response to Hurricane Harvey, eventually joined the USS Wasp in the relief effort.

“Their principle contribution to the hurricane relief effort has been helicopter support,” the Navy said. “FEMA and DoD have determined there are sufficient land-based helicopters and tilt rotor lift capabilities in the territories to continue helping the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as they recover.”