By Reggie Jarrett
Editor, Jax Air News
A P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville flew a reconnaissance flight to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands Sept. 21.
"Our tasking was to primarily take pictures of the infrastructure and assess the damage in the region," said Lt. James Pearson, flight commander.
"We were looking at airports, ports, radio towers, communication centers, plus anywhere that could be potentially used as a shelter. We looked at large structures, such as schools, gymnasiums and government buildings."
The flight had to go northeast around the hurricane before they could get to their destination. The mission took about nine hours of flying time, spending about two and a half hours over St. Croix.
"Some areas we looked at today were hit quite hard," Pearson said.
"Our thoughts and prayers definitely go out to those families."
The crew took photos of the impacted area, which were sent in a live stream from the plane back to the United States.
"Those pictures were sent back to the decision makers that can get the proper resources down there in the most timely fashion," Pearson said.
In addition to taking pictures, the plane provided communi-cations to ships, helicopters and other fixed-wing aircraft in the area.
Lt. Stephanie Mondloch, the flight's tactical coordinating officer has flown on similar missions after Hurricane Irma and said it was difficult to compare the two.
"We were just down there in the same area after Irma, but we were over St. Johns and St. Thomas," she said.
"It is tough to compare, not knowing what the infrastructure is like. With Irma, we saw a lot of sunken boats and overturned boats and piers. We didn't see as much of that this time."
The P-8A Poseidon aircraft is well suited to fly this type of mission.
"One of the unique capabilities of the P-8, is it the only platform that has the range to go out on one tank of gas, fly over 1,300 miles, loiter on station, provide all the services we can provide and then came back to that same base and land," Pearson said.
"So that long-range over water capability makes us very unique."
NAS Jax is averaging one flight per day to provide support to areas impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
"We, here in the Navy, are here to support them throughout this entire ordeal, just like we were during Hurricane Irma," Pearson said.
"We are definitely doing good service down there, coordinating everything and getting that information back to the people who make the decisions in real time."