By Diálogo September 19, 2017 U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) established Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI) to support Hurricane Irma relief efforts. The Leeward Islands comprise more than 10 islands located between the northeastern Caribbean Sea and the western Atlantic Ocean. “The goal of our efforts in St. Martin is straightforward,” said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Michael Samarov, the commander of JTF-LI. The governments of France and the Netherlands, who share the island of Saint Martin, requested the U.S. support to help the disaster relief operation led by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). Hurricane Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands in decades. “We want to save lives and ease human suffering and also augment civilian emergency response capabilities until our efforts are no longer necessary,” said Col. Samarov. JTF-LI is equipped with several disaster relief capabilities, including command and control, humanitarian assessment, water production, and helicopter transportation. The U.S. National Hurricane Center described Hurricane Irma as the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. The hurricane reached the eastern Caribbean in early September. It made landfall on the island of Barbuda on September 6th before passing near the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti and making a secondary landfall in Cuba on September 9th. Irma brought destructive winds, heavy rainfall, and dangerous storm surge, resulting in at least 25 fatalities and causing significant infrastructure damage across the Caribbean region. Task force capabilities JTF-LI comprises about 300 U.S. military personnel and includes the support of eight helicopters, four C-130 Hercules aircraft, and the USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1). Its personnel stem from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Southern Command, Joint Task Force-Bravo, and other SOUTHCOM elements. The task force is just one element of the U.S. response to Hurricane Irma and will remain in the affected area to support ongoing USAID/OFDA-led relief operations as long as the U.S. government deems necessary. “Hurricane Irma dealt a terrible blow to St. Martin,” said U.S. Navy Captain Steven Stacy, the mission commander of Southern Partnership Station-Expeditionary Fast Transport 2017, a SOUTHCOM-directed operation that was deployed in June by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command /U.S. 4th Fleet. Capt. Stacy was onboard of the Spearhead supporting Navy humanitarian relief support in Saint Martin. “There have been fatalities, and much of the island’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities that were affected by this storm. We are providing the heavy lift to support USAID and the French and Dutch governments’ humanitarian responses.” The USNS Spearhead first loaded humanitarian relief supplies at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay before reaching the port of the Franco-Dutch island, Saint Martin. While in port at Guantanamo Bay, the Spearhead loaded 50,000 gallons of fuel, 81,000 bottles of water and 1,000 ready-to-eat meals. The fuel is to be used for reverse osmosis water purification systems being sent to St. Martin. “We are doing humanitarian support for the hurricane affecting the Caribbean,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Scott Szalejko, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 437th Airlift Wing/15th Airlift Squadron. The 437th Airlift Wing´s crew members traveled to Mountain Home in Idaho to transport a mobile air traffic control tower to support the Caribbean islands affected by the hurricane. The tower was provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, and was requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered a loss during this time… We are honored to help in any way we can,” said Col. Samarov.
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Ireland captain Paul O’Connell wants it to be a case of business as usual when he makes his Dublin farewell as a Test match player on Saturday. O’Connell is guaranteed a rapturous Aviva Stadium send-off, whatever the result, but he has no intention of being distracted. “There seems to be a lot of final everythings for me lately!” he said, speaking at a press conference in Dublin on Friday. “It is my first start (of the summer), and it’s more where I am going to be in terms of my playing and my fitness is where my mind is at the moment. “I have had a good pre-season, but it has been two-and-a-half months since I started a game, so I am just eager to get out and see where I am and put in a good performance. “That side of it (Dublin farewell) hasn’t been big for me this week. “I was disappointed with some of the things I did in the Scotland game (two weeks ago), and I am eager to correct those. It’s about the game, and getting it right.” Reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland have been tipped by many to reach at least the World Cup semi-finals – they have never previously progressed beyond the last eight – and they go into the Wales encounter after beating them in Cardiff earlier this month, before toppling Scotland last time out. England at Twickenham next Saturday will complete Ireland’s competitive World Cup preparation, and then it will be down to business and qualification from a World Cup pool that also features France, Italy, Canada and Romania. O’Connell will bow out of Test rugby after the forthcoming World Cup campaign in England and Wales following a stellar international career that has so far harvested 102 Ireland caps, while he also went on three British and Irish Lions tours. Wales, the country that O’Connell made his Test debut against on home soil 13 years ago, are fittingly the opposition this weekend in what is a last warm-up game for both countries ahead of Ireland boss Joe Schmidt and Wales head coach Warren Gatland announcing their World Cup squads next week. “We are all about preparation and how we train, and training at a certain level and intensity,” O’Connell, 35, added. “You regret a mistake in training almost as much as you regret a mistake in a match, and that’s a great place to be when you are trying to prepare really well for big games. “The way we prepare, we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We just put the emphasis on what is right in front of us. “There are certainly things we would like to do a little bit better from the Scotland game. One of our big things is trying to improve from championship to championship and game to game, and we probably took a step back in some of the things we did in the Scotland game. “We are staying very focused on the short-term, taking these matches really seriously and not looking too far beyond them. It works for us, and we will stick to it. Once the final whistle has sounded on Saturday, though, O’Connell should expect an emotional exit. “It has been a very enjoyable experience playing in Ireland and playing in Dublin at the Aviva in Lansdowne Road. It’s every kid’s dream,” he said. “It has always been a dream of everyone to play for their country, so to play in the Aviva and in Lansdowne Road as many times as I have, and had as many great days as I have, has been brilliant.” Press Association
Facing a dwindling number of available phone numbers for a growing number of San Fernando Valley residents, California officials began holding a series of public hearings Monday on how to introduce a new 747 area code within the 818. Officials are weighing whether the Valley should be split into two zones – one area keeping 818 and the other getting 747 – or whether to “overlay” 747 across the region by assigning the new area code only to new users. Michael Evans, a regulations analyst for the PUC, said that if a new area code is not introduced, the Valley will run out of available phone numbers by summer or fall of 2009. But some at the Glendale City Hall meeting said they were concerned about how the change could affect them. “I think an overlay code is a nightmare,” she said. “How many numbers do I need to dial to call the person right next door to you?” Jim Bottoms owns three moving companies, with a dozen trucks between them, and said he does not like the prospect of an area code change. “It would be expensive – you got to change all your paperwork, all your trucks, and I’m sure there’s a lot of things I’m not even thinking about,” he said in an interview after the meeting. Officials expect to make a decision next year on how to introduce the new 747 area code in the Valley. More information on the proposed area code change is available at www.cpuc.ca.gov. [email protected] (818) 546-3304 Area code meetings The Public Utilities Commission will hold public meetings this week on a new area code for the San Fernando Valley: 1:30 p.m. today at the Las Virgenes Water District headquarters, 4232 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas; 7 tonight at San Fernando City Hall, 117 N. Macneil St.; and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.John Zachman, a 35-year Glendale resident, urged the PUC to let him keep his 818 by adopting the overlay option. “I belong to the 818 community, if you will,” Zachman said. “All my friends know me as the 818 community.” Because the overlay method would assign 747 to any new numbers, it could lead to a situation in which a household with multiple phone lines could have one with the 818 area code and another with the 747, officials said. The overlay method also would require callers to dial the full area code plus phone number for all calls – even within their own area code. Bridget Oberlin, an actress from North Hollywood, said the Valley should adopt an area-code split, with the east part of the Valley getting the 818.