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470th MI Brigade responds to crisis in Haiti

Jan 21, 2010

By Gregory Ripps, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Jan. 21, 2010) -- When President Obama promised a "swift, coordinated and aggressive response" to the earthquake disaster in Haiti, U.S. Army South's 470th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade immediately responded by deploying intelligence teams to assist in disaster relief and sustainment support to Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti and Operation Unified Response.

Though the 470th MI Brigade is deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and many countries in South and Central America, the brigade began rapidly building additional disaster relief intelligence teams from the its forces not already deployed elsewhere to support JTF Haiti and U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH) to mitigate near-term human suffering and accelerate the Haitian people's recovery.

As the world rushed to respond to the catastrophe in Haiti, the 470th was rapidly deploying intelligence support teams as part of XVIII Airborne Corps' 82nd Airborne Division's early-entry forces and the greater U.S. Army South effort as it exercises its Title X authority to command and control sustainment support for JTF Haiti and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

When relief groups carrying medical supplies waited on the border shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti for security Friday (Jan. 15), 470th Force Protection Detachment personnel were on the island assisting in security and force protection operations in support of the U.S. Embassy and transiting U.S. forces in the area. By Saturday (Jan. 16), swift coordination by Lt. Col. Scot Storey's Special Troops Battalion staff and Fort Sam Houston's Army Community Services deployment specialist Lewis Lacy brought about mobilization of Army Medical Department staff including administrators, nurses and physician assistants, synchronized with Army garrison services, and executed Soldier Readiness Processing that prepared more than 50 470th MI Brigade and several hundred ARSOUTH Soldiers and civilians to deploy in support of JTF Haiti. The brigade also coordinated intelligence support with the ARSOUTH assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Col. Mark Costello.

Sunday (Jan. 17) came quickly, and through the late night hours, counterintelligence teams of the brigade's 401st MI Company deployed to Fort Bragg, N.C., to join the hundreds of paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division, who continued to flow into Haiti to conduct relief operations through Monday - the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"This is what my Soldiers and civilian do - just another day in the 401st," said Capt. Michael Ballard, 401st MI Company commander, when asked about deploying his intelligence teams to support Operation Unified Response over the holiday weekend.

"My Soldiers and civilians are motivated and excited to be involved in supporting such a humanitarian relief endeavor," said Capt. Jessica Watson, the brigade's headquarters and headquarters detachment commander. "Yet they are frustrated that they cannot do more to fully support the mission and people forward in the disaster area."

The 470th MI Brigade maintains intelligence support teams that are prepared to deploy throughout the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility (AOR), and it deploys intelligence battalions and teams to southwest and southeast Asia in support of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) operations. This mission is different, as its purpose is to save lives and help the Haitian people recover from a tragic natural disaster. The mission planning for this operation required some out-of-the-box thinking as intelligence personnel prepared different packing lists and modes of operating to serve as "enablers" to support humanitarian and security operations in a disaster zone. This time, intelligence is enabling humanitarian and relief operations succeed in contrast to primarily focusing on a human enemy. Nevertheless, besides looking at environmental conditions and atmospherics, these intelligence teams will also look to ensure security and force protection to the Haitian people and United Nations and JTF Haiti relief efforts.

Col. Jim Lee, 470th MI Brigade commander, explained how the brigade was able to react and adjust quickly to the crisis.

"After seeing the suffering of the Haitian people the night of the quake, our leaders and Soldiers responded immediately with the brigade S3 [plans and operations] staff beginning crisis action planning for support to ARSOUTH," said Lee. "Further, this brigade prides itself in its Soldiers' and civilians' expeditionary mindset and capabilities as they continuously deploy intelligence in support of ARSOUTH's enduring theater engagement requirements. Our systems and processes are continually applied as we support operations throughout South and Central America and the CENTCOM AOR including Iraq and Afghanistan."

The brigade's leadership and Soldiers appear committed to and stand ready to support JTF-Haiti, ARSOUTH and SOUTHCOM as its mission evolves over the coming months to support the people of Haiti. This is clearly a different type of mission for the brigade, but its Soldiers and civilians will play an important part in ARSOUTH's larger mission to ease human pain and suffering and assist Haiti's recovery.

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