Two Navy ships, sent out to assist in the relief efforts in Puerto Rico last month, have been re-assigned, their services no longer needed, officials said Thursday.
Following a series of devastating hurricanes on the island, the USS Wasp, a multipurpose amphibious assault ship, and the USS Oak Hill, a dock landing ship, were deployed in early September, used primarily for helicopter support in search and rescue missions.
Now, Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Jamie Davis said they will be leaving the Caribbean and “proceeding on to their next missions in defense of our nation.”
After weeks of political gesturing that saw some Democrats and political activists insisting that the Trump administration was delaying aid to Puerto Rico, the relief efforts continued with the military committed to the humanitarian aid.
According to Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, “While our mission is to fight and win our nation’s wars, helping Americans in their greatest time of need will always be a sacred responsibility for us all. That is exactly what you have done and continue to do.”
Now, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló consulted with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Defense Department (DoD). According to Davis, they determined “that some defense department assets are no longer needed.”
In his statement, Davis said: “The Wasp and Oak Hill’s principle contribution to the hurricane relief effort has been helicopter support. 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.”
The statement indicates the withdrawal is part of a planned transition from “hurricane response to hurricane recovery.”
Remaining in Puerto Rico is Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, as well as the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a relief bill that will direct $1.27 billion to Puerto Rico, part of a $36.5 billion disaster relief package. The legislation easily cleared the Senate (87-17), and it went on to President Donald J. Trump’s desk, awaiting his signature. The measure includes help for the response to wildfires and three hurricanes.
The 17 “no” votes came from Republicans.
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) October 26, 2017
— Navy Times (@NavyTimes) October 26, 2017
Pentagon: Two US Navy ships, the USS WASP and USS OAK HILL, are leaving Puerto Rico. FEMA & military determined they’re no longer needed pic.twitter.com/wfbGQYbIXI
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) October 26, 2017