Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere but after decades of poor governance it was starting to pull itself out from that dubious title. The USA had a number of interests in the country; it was a major source of mass migration, had many areas of weak governance that were a haven for drugs transhipment activities and former President Bill Clinton had only recently been appointed UN Special Envoy to the country.
US forces had also intervened militarily a number of times, most recently in 2004 in Operation Restore/Uphold Democracy.
The USA, therefore, would not stand idly by when on the 12th of January 2010 at 21:53:10 UTC a magnitude 7 earthquake struck 16 miles west of Port au Prince.
230,000 people died, 197,000 were injured and over 1.2 million were displaced. 60% of the government infrastructure was destroyed and over 100,000 homes destroyed with many more damaged beyond repair.
Within hours of the earthquake, President René Preval despatched several of his ministers, on motorcycles, to the home of the US Ambassador to Haiti with a request for emergency aid.. Although the response was of an international nature, it was still dominated by the US, primarily USAID and the DoD.
The day after the earthquake an advance party arrived from the Department of Defense to establish the kind of support that could be provided. The necessary authorisations and administrative processes were enabled and commanding the new Joint Task Force – Haiti (JTF-H), was Lt General PK Keen.
Operation Unified Response – The Military Logistics Response
The scope of the international humanitarian response to the earthquake would require a document ten times the size of this one so instead of looking at strategic communications, command and control, the civil-military interface, information management and dissemination, medical responses, and rubble management, instead, I am going to look at two elements;
- Air Operations and Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport
- Over the Shore Logistics
The Haiti earthquake is a rich source of study for anyone interested in the application of military capabilities in a disaster response but as can be seen, often there is no substitute, but equally often, they are not always best suited.