USS Mesa Verde returns home from Matthew relief work in Haiti

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By Matthew Twist – NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The USS Mesa Verde has pulled into port Thursday morning at Naval Station Norfolk after spending several weeks helping Haitian residents recover from Hurricane Matthew.

The USS Mesa Verde was sent to help out with Matthew relief on Oct. 9.

The vulnerable island of Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew on October 4 as the Category 4 hurricane powered through the Caribbean Sea.

Several hundred people were killed in the Caribbean and in Haiti alone, as the storm devastated the vulnerable nation.

A locally based strike group that deployed to Haiti — along with the Mesa Verde, USS George Washington and USS Iwo Jima — surveyed the damage and destruction left behind in the wake of Matthew.

Crew members say the ship was able to anchor close to the coast of Haiti and could see the devastation offshore.

"Saw a lot of floating debris in the water, large trees, cattle, pieces of houses," said Lieutenant Krystle Schreick, who is the ship's navigator.

The USS Mesa Verda left Naval Station Norfolk on September 12 for deployment training. Their training was interrupted due to Hurricane Matthew, when they were called to assist with humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

"All the sailors in the entire units that responded certainly felt terrible about the tragedy that was happening," said Captain Randall Peck.

Captain Peck says the Mesa Verde was one of the first to respond to Hurricane Matthew's devastation.

"We knew there was a lack of clean eater, lack of food. Shelter was an issue. Clearly the sailors felt that it was an important mission and we wanted to help out the Haitians," he said.

While providing supplies like food, water, and medical kits was important, it also provided the hundreds of Sailors and Marines a chance to get ready for their next mission when they deploy in 2017.

"I think anytime sailors are out doing what sailors do, it's excellent training. We certainly did some things we haven't done," Captain Peck said.

Peck says many of crew members gained much needed experience, including medical staff being integrated with a surgical team.

Although it was good practice for crew members, Lt. Schreick says they're grateful to provide much needed relief to the people of Haiti.

"It was uplifting for them to know they were doing something real, providing relief, providing real support to this country that desperately needed our assistance," she said.

The USS Mesa Verde stayed in Haiti until they were relieved by the USS Iwo Jima, which returned to Norfolk on Monday. The Mesa Verde then completed their deployment training.