Operation Unified Response
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday 12 January 2010 collapsed the presidential palace, monuments, and the city's largest hospital. Shoddily built schools and houses lay in ruins across the densely populated city, leaving homeless survivors wandering the streets. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told U.S. television (CNN) on January 13, 2010, he believed more than 100,000 people might be dead. Working hospitals were overflowing, and bloody bodies lined the roadways. The International Red Cross said up to 3 million people have been affected. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Development efforts have suffered severe setbacks because of political violence, lawlessness, corruption and natural disasters.
President Barack Obama directed a swift, coordinated effort from the U.S., saying "the people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble and to deliver the humanitarian relief of food water and medicine that Haitians will need in the coming days." The United States launched a major civilian and military response to the massive earthquake in Haiti, which flattened buildings in much of the capital, and left a devastating toll of death and destruction.
The emergency response is being led by U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, who says the immediate objective is to save lives following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. "We are working aggressively and in a highly coordinated way, across the federal government, to bring all of the assets and capacities we have to bear to quickly and effectively provide as much assistance as possible," said Rajiv Shah. "The goal of the relief effort in the first 72 hours will be very focused on saving lives."
U.S. Southern Command coordinated with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The head of U.S. Southern Command, Air Force General Douglas Fraser, said Navy and Coast Guard ships carrying helicopters that can be used in rescue missions are on the way. "They have limited humanitarian assistance supplies on them, but they have some vertical lift capability, some helicopters with them," said General Fraser.
The military last rallied to help Haiti in September 2008 after a series of hurricanes left flooding and mudslides in their wake, Lenzini noted. The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious ship on a humanitarian mission in Colombia at the time, diverted to Haiti in response. Its crew remained in Haiti for 19 days, using helicopters and amphibious landing craft to deliver 3.3 million pounds of internationally donated aid to communities isolated by flooding, and mudslides and damaged roads. USNS Comfort, a hospital ship home-ported in Baltimore, visited Haiti in April 2009, the first stop during its four-month Continuing Promise 2009 humanitarian assistance mission through Latin America and the Caribbean. Comfort's crew of medical professionals from the Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and U.S. Public Health Service, as well as about a dozen nongovernmental organizations and international partners, provided a full range of medical care to Haitian citizens.
The security side of U.S. humanitarian relief operations in Haiti will take on a larger role as violence increases in the aftermath of the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck five days ago, the top U.S. commander in Haiti said Jan. 17, 2010. In the midst of the massive international relief effort there, Army Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen said some incidents of violence have impeded the U.S. military's ability to support the government of Haiti. "Our principal mission [is] humanitarian assistance, but the security component is going to be an increasing part of that," he said today on ABC's This Week. "And we're going to have to address that along with the United Nations, and we are going to have to do it quickly."
On Thursday Jan. 14, 2010 it was reported that the XVIIIth Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg would deploy a battalion with a brigade command and control element in response to the earthquake in Haiti. More than 100 Soldiers from B Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment deployed mid-afternoon that day to support humanitarian operations in Haiti. The entire battalion, along with a 2nd Brigade Combat Team command and control element, about 800 Soldiers, deployed the following day [Friday]. The 82nd Airborne Division's entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team - on tap as the U.S. global response force - "has been told to be prepared to deploy as needed or required. As the global response force, the 2nd BCT is on 24/7 standby, ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours. In that capacity, it trains for the full spectrum of missions - from forcible entry scenarios and follow-on stability operations to humanitarian aid and disaster response.
The Puerto Rico Army Guard has alerted three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 1/111th Aviation Company along with 12 crew members, and the Puerto Rico Air Guard has called up two C-130 aircraft from the 156th Airlift Wing with 21 support personnel.
Air Mobility Command [AMC] identified several of its C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft for the relief operations according to officials, posturing them for immediate support. Additional aircraft were made available as relief requirements become better known. Mission planning and command-and-control for the AMC portion of the humanitarian effort were led by the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB. As AMC's hub for global operations, the 618th TACC plans, schedules and directs a fleet of nearly 1,300 mobility aircraft in support of strategic airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations around the world. Another key player in AMC's support to Haitian relief operations was the 621st Contingency Response Wing, based out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The 621st CRW staff maintains a ready corps of light, lean and agile mobility support forces who are prepared to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world to open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations.
The 1st Special Operations Wing here deployed two MC-130H Combat Talon IIs from the 15th Special Operations Squadron and one MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 9th Special Operations Squadron Jan. 13 in support of humanitarian operations in Haiti. The 12th Reconnaissance Squadron here launched an RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft from Beale Air Force Base Jan. 13 to assist with the humanitarian aid mission in Haiti. The squadron received the short-notice mission from U.S. Southern Command officials to provide imagery to assist in the continuing relief efforts.
Haiti's government handed over to the United States temporary control of its airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince to help relief efforts in the quake-stricken island nation. Initially the airport was only getting about 30 or 40 aircraft in a day. By 20 January the field was up to close to 130 a day, and working the allocation of those aircraft very carefully. To date, of all the lift that had been in there, the United States military had only used about 28 percent of the lift on the ground. The other 72 percent has gone to NGOs, PVOs, U.N., and other U.S. government agencies.
As the Navy component command of U.S. Southern Command, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. Naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. A Navy P-3 Orion aircraft from the Patrol Squadron (VP) 26 detachment operating from Cooperative Security Location (CSL) Comalapa, El Salvador, conducted aerial surveys of the area affected by the earthquake.
USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) was ordered to deploy to Haiti to conduct Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Response (HA/DR) missions Jan. 13. The USS Carl Vinson was on a training mission when it was ordered to Haiti to support the effort. Vinson was underway in the Atlantic Ocean, and briefly loitered off the coast of Mayport to receive equipment and supplies. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 began humanitarian and disaster relief operations Jan. 15 after arriving on station Thursday. Additionally, USS Normandy (CG 60) and USS Underwood (FFG 36) deployed from their homeports and stand ready to assist, while USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), homeported in Baltimore, Md., is preparing to get underway, if required. USS Higgins (DDG 76) based out of Naval Station San Diego would arrive on station off the coast of Haiti to provide afloat logistical services for the Coast Guard helicopters.
USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) arrived in Haiti Jan. 18 and began coordinated joint diving operations in the port of Port-au-Prince in support of Operation Unified Response. Grasp, a Military Sealift Command (MSC) rescue and salvage vessel, began dive operations with embarked U.S. Army's 544th Engineer Dive Team to assess the damage to the port facilities in order to reopen them for operations, allowing relief supplies and personnel additional access to provide aid. USS Bataan (LHD 5) embarked with Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU 22), USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) were ordered to get underway as soon as possible. The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) began onloading approximately 1,700 personnel and their equipment aboard the ships of the Bataan Amphibious Relief Mission Jan. 15 to aid the people of Haiti. Bataan was the first Navy ship on-scene in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, a category-4 hurricane, made landfall. The ship spent 19 days supporting the relief efforts by moving more than 1,600 people to safety and delivering more than 160,000 pounds of supplies to the Gulf Coast of the United States. The 22nd MEU consists of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced). The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan and composed of more than 2,200 Marines was scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Jan. 18 with heavy-lift and earth-moving equipment and additional medical-support capabilities.
As of 21 January 2010 it was reported that another 4,000 U.S. troops wre bound to Haiti to take part in the relief effort, brining the total number involved to more than 16,000. The Nassau Amphibious Ready Group, including an assault ship and several transport ships, was originally supposed to deploy to the Mediterranean, before being ordered Monday to hold for a new destination in Haiti. The approximately 2,200 Marines and 1,800 Sailors will conduct humanitarian missions. The NAS ARG departed Norfolk, Va., Jan. 18, for a regularly scheduled deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, but had been ordered to proceed to Haiti after completing its onload of the Marines of the 24 MEU in Morehead City, NC. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit includes a Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion 9th Marines Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 24; and its Command Element.
Basic services in Haiti are extremely limited and are estimated to be insufficient to support sustained military operations for a sizable force. There are limited assets which can be drawn upon for initial reconnaissance and deployment operations, but will quickly have to be augmented for main body troop deployment. A fairly robust services industry, primarily non-technical, exists in neighboring Dominican Republic that can be exploited if necessary. Services that can be counted to support military operations include: unskilled labor, express courier services, and airport support operations. Services with limited availability that could have military application include: lodging, stevedores, freight forwarding, drivers, construction equipment, trash removal and disposal, laundry, bulk cleaning, welding and metal fabrication, port support operations, construction, and interpreters. Services that cannot be counted on include: hazardous waste handling and disposal, packing and crating, architectural engineering, refrigeration, mortuary services, business machines, info technology services, photo and imagery services, demining operations, and railroad services.
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