Military News

Monday, January 18, 2010

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Security Incidents in Haiti Impede Relief Efforts, General Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - While violence in Haiti has dropped to pre-earthquake levels, security incidents in the devastated country impede efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance, the top U.S. commander in Haiti said today. Army Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen characterized the security situation as "calm," sounding a positive note a day after he cited increasing incidents of violence in Haiti in the midst of one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

In an operational update with reporters today, Keen said official U.S. sources and Haitian residents report that the number of violent incidents have declined to levels not seen since before a 7-magnitude earthquake rocked the Caribbean nation Jan. 12.

"Nevertheless, any incidents of violence impede our ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, and we have to address those, as [U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti] is doing in the best of their ability," he said.

Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of the disaster, which officials believe has killed between 100,000 to 200,000 people and which the Red Cross estimates has affected some three million people.

For its part, the Defense Department has pledged up to $20 million in emergency relief funds for Haiti, and sprang troops into action following the quake, with the U.S. military footprint there expected to grow in the coming days.

About 1,700 troops, mostly from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, are on the ground in Haiti and that number is likely to grow to 4,000-5,000 in the coming days, with roughly the same number of Marines and other forces operating from sea-based platforms, officials said.

"We need as many troops on the ground as we can, and we've identified those numbers based upon our assessment [of the situation]," Keen said. Speaking of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, he added, "There's over 3-1/2 million people here. It's a very congested area. In order to get to all the points that are needed, in order to address the situation, we need a number of troops to do that."

Military efforts are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission. Operations are focused on working with the United Nations in Haiti, international relief organizations and local responders to provide search and rescue, distribute aid and assess damage to key infrastructure, officials said.

As of 3 p.m. today, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C., was arriving off the coast of Haiti. The Navy-Marine Corps team on the USS Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group had begun operations meanwhile to bring water, food and medicine to those in need.

The amphibious ships are loaded with helicopters, amphibious vehicles, trucks, generators and water-purification units, said Marine Maj. Gen. Cornell Wilson, commander of U.S. Marine forces operating in Haiti. He added that Marine forces bring additional flexibility to U.S. efforts.

"Marines are well known for their capabilities in combat operations," he said. "However, they're equally capable of conducting humanitarian assistance operations. Together with our Navy counterparts, we're bringing a robust sea-based capability to this mission."

Florida Guard establishes flight operations center for Haiti



By Lt. Col. Ron Tittle
Florida National Guard

(1/18/10) -- The Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air and Space Operations Group (AOG) is paving the way for air operations in the emergency response to Haiti. Florida Guardsmen have been working to assist the Haitian government, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. Southern Command in coordinating the flow of supplies into Port-Au-Prince Airport in Haiti since Jan. 15.

The unique capabilities of the Florida AOG were relied upon to establish the Haitian Flight Operations Coordination Center (HFOCC) while operating from their center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The model for the coordination center was developed after Hurricane Katrina to smooth the flow of relief supplies into a disaster area.

"We are supporting the AFSOUTH Air Operations Center, the air component of U.S. Southern Command, 24/7 to provide this capability," said Air Force Col. Randall Spear, the AOG commander. "Supplies from around the world are now flowing into Haiti as a direct result of this effort."

"Previously, aircraft flowing into Haiti had a gridlock of several hours, because there was no place to park or unload aircraft," said Lt. Col. Brad Graff, director of the HFOCC and chief of the 601st Air Mobility Division. "Now relief supplies - medical, water, and food - are steadily flowing into Haiti."

Spear said people from all over the world are talking with the Florida Airmen to get their slot time onto the ramp. He reiterated Haitian authorities are not letting anyone land unless they have a slot time from the coordination center. The Haitian authorities dictate their priorities and needs to the HFOCC through SOUTHCOM.

Florida Air Guardsmen are also assisting with airspace flow of air cargo into Homestead Air Reserve Base. They may pick up additional missions in other areas in order to maximize airlift to quake-ravaged Haiti.

"I am extremely proud of the professionalism of our Florida Guardsmen at the 101st AOG as well as the active duty Airmen working beside them around-the-clock to ensure the protection of our homeland," said Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, the adjutant general of Florida . "They are able to take their daily, superb skills and rise to new heights to ensure an effective air response to a critical situation in Haiti."

Working in Florida, and particularly being Florida Guardsmen, the 101st AOG has a depth of experience in dealing with natural disasters enabling them to expedite the flow of critical resources into the disaster area.

"We have become the experts in contingency response and planning when it comes to employing air support in disasters," Spear said.

The 101st AOG provides a 24/7 force for the 601st Air and Space Operations Center and its higher air component command - 1st Air Force, also referred to as AFNORTH. Air Force officials said the teamwork exhibited through their day-to-day work, and particularly during emergency operations, shows the success of the U.S. Air Force's Total Force.

The Total Force concept taps into the inherent strength and experience of all three Air Force components to increase overall combat capability. It combines Airmen from active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units for specific missions. Each component has unique strengths that together, produce a more effective combat force and efficient peacetime force, officials said.

As a U.S. Northern Command air component, AFNORTH is the senior agency in the U.S. Theater Air Control System (USTACS), according to the agency's website. It is specifically responsible for the land areas of the Continental U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the surrounding seas out to approximately 500 nautical miles.

In the case of critical response to the tragedy in Haiti, the unique skills and teamwork of the AOG reflect the experience and coordination crucial to help save lives and provide some form of hope in a wave of despair.

USNS Comfort Prepares for All Eventualities in Haiti



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - Haiti sounds like the seventh level of hell now, and the crew and medical staff of this hospital ship is preparing to enter it. The magnitude 7 earthquake Jan. 12 leveled the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Reports on the ground indicate that 400,000 Haitians are living in the streets, ship officials said. Either their homes are destroyed or too damaged to enter. Red Cross officials estimate that between 50,000 and 100,000 people are dead, with thousands more injured.

Government offices were damaged or destroyed in the quake, and local control is tenuous at best, non-existent in most places. Government officials and police are victims just as any other Haitian in this crisis.

Food and fresh water is limited and entirely dependent on humanitarian efforts now. Violence and looting also has occurred in the capital, throwing many plans out the window.

The Military Sealift Command crew is driving the Comfort as fast as they safely can. They know time means lives and they are working to ensure no moment is wasted.

The humanitarian crisis also drives the medical staff as they prepare to receive casualties as soon as possible.

Plans now are for the Comfort to moor in the harbor of Port-au-Prince – as it did during a humanitarian exercise last year. The area is near what's left of the United Nations compound. Depending on the security environment, Officials plan to send medical detachments ashore to help in casualty evaluation.

The ship has mobile security teams embarked, to provide force protection for the ship and deployed teams. They also will coordinate with U.S. forces already on the island.

Aboard the Comfort, staff members are ensuring medical supplies and equipment are where they need to be. Medical planners expect crush wounds and burn injuries to predominate, and are setting up accordingly. The ship is setting up 11 operating rooms, with eight expected to be working as soon as the ship reaches its station.

Medics are setting up wards and holding drills. Specialists tested casualty flow procedures through the ship this morning from the flight deck to patient admission to the operating rooms to the intensive care wards to regular patient wards.

Other specialists are ensuring that the equipment works properly and procedures are in place so X-rays, for example, are produced and read quickly. The pharmacy is readying to ensure the correct medications go to the right patients and the laboratory is ensuring the right tests are performed and matched to those who need them.

The crew also is working to absorb an expected influx of 350 more personnel. About 250 will be medical staff, and 100 are support personnel. This will allow the hospital ship to increase the number of patient beds and man all the operating rooms.

Other health safety personnel are infusing uniforms with prometherin – an insect repellent to ward off mosquitos that carry malaria.

The ship is scheduled to arrive in Haiti Jan. 21.

Gates Visit Aims to Bolster U.S.-India Ties, Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he sees his visit to India as another step toward expanding the two countries' solid defense relationship, particularly in light of the common threats they face. "It will be a further review of progress we are making in expanding the relationship – whether it is training, exercises or defense trade," Gates told reporters during the flight to New Delhi.

"All these things have grown significantly" since the two countries signed a defense framework agreement in 2005, he said.

Gates noted the United States and India's long-standing shared values and interests in an op-ed piece to be published in the Dec. 19 issue of "Times of India."

"At the same time, the security threats and challenges of the 21st century present new opportunities for our nations and militaries to work together in unprecedented ways," he wrote. "I arrive in New Delhi today believing firmly that we must seize these opportunities because the peace and security of South Asia is critical not just to this region, but also to the entire international community."

Gate called terrorism the greatest common challenge the two countries face.

In recognition of that threat, President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a memo of understanding in November, reaffirming their commitment to work together to counter terrorism and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology.

Gates also recognized India's role in Afghanistan, where it has pledged $1.3 billion for development, and to disaster relief and peacekeeping missions beyond its borders.

The secretary also cited strides the United States and India have made in developing a stable defense trade, most recently with India's decision to buy U.S. transport aircraft and other military equipment. "The U.S. defense industry produces the best products in the world, and using the same platforms also enhances our militaries' ability to interact and communicate more effectively," he wrote.

More opportunities for closer cooperation in sharing technology and increasing two-way information flow are out there, he said, acknowledging that current policies hamper them to some extent.

"We both have to reexamine policies dealing with exchanging technology," he wrote. "Moving forward together on certain regulatory measures in this area – especially those dictated by United States law – will enable greater levels of cooperation and provide tangible benefits for both governments and economies."

Gates' visit to India is his first since February 2008, when he arrived with his arm in a cast after slipping on ice in Washington. He said he looked to returning, this time, "with two working wings on this trip."

Gates: U.S. Demonstrates Unmatched Abilities in Haiti

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - The U.S. military is demonstrating in Haiti its unparalleled capability in dealing with humanitarian disasters, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. "The way we have been able to respond is indicative of our preparedness to deal with this sort of thing," Gates told reporters traveling with him to India. "To get the number of ships and the number of people and the supplies forward as quickly as we have, I think, speaks to the capability of the military."

"Frankly, I don't think there is anybody in the world better at it than the American military," he said.

Lessons learned supporting a long string of humanitarian crises missions around the world have sharpened this capability, Gates said. He cited the U.S. military role following the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, a major earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and devastating hurricanes in Haiti.

"So we end up doing this with some regularity," he said, with each disaster presenting different challenges. "But we obviously learn each time."

That storehouse of experience is proving critical in Haiti, where a massive logistics operation is under way to get food and water to the populace.

Gates reiterated concern that the situation in Haiti could turn violent if adequate sustenance doesn't reach people soon.

Although more secure landing areas have been established for helicopters to drop provisions, the secretary emphasized that airdrops alone can't meet the needs of 2 million Haitians. Ground transportation within Port-au-Prince remains challenging, he said.

While providing a desperately needed logistics train, the U.S. military will support the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti and the Haitian government as required to maintain security, he said.

Gates noted reports that violence in the capital city has dropped during the past day or two below pre-earthquake numbers.

"We will work with the U.N. .. to ensure the security situation remains good," he said.

NMCSD Staff Deploys in Support of Haiti Humanitarian Assistance Efforts

January 18, 2010 - Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) deployed 12 personnel Jan. 15 in support of the humanitarian assistance and disaster reliefefforts in Haiti. The 12 staff members are reporting to USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) homeported in Baltimore, Md. The Comfort was scheduled to get underway on Saturday Jan. 16. Another 43 NMCSD staff members will join the USS Bataan (LHD 5), which is homeported in Norfolk, Va.

NMCSD is sending Logistics Specialists, doctors, nurses, Hospital Corpsman and other support staff to augment medical staff already aboard the Navy ships.

“We are saddened by the devastation and loss in Haiti, but I am confident NMCSD staff will help ease the suffering and contribute in a positive way to the recovery and rebuilding of the Haitian community,” said Capt. Joel Roos, Deputy Commander Naval Medical Center San Diego. “Navy medical assets will be essential to the recovery efforts in Haiti and we are eager to assist where able.”

The duration of the deployments are not currently known. Patient care will continue at NMCSD as usual during this time.

Florida Guard Establishes Flight Center for Haiti

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Tittle
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - The Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air and Space Operations Group here is paving the way for air operations in the emergency response to Haiti. Florida Guardsmen have been working to assist the Haitian government, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. Southern Command in coordinating the flow of supplies into Haiti's Port-au-Prince Airport since Jan. 15. The Florida Air Operations Group used its unique capabilities to establish the Haitian Flight Operations Coordination Center while operating from its center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

The model for the coordination center was developed after Hurricane Katrina to smooth the flow of relief supplies into a disaster area.

"We are supporting the AFsouth Air Operations Center, the air component of

U.S. Southern Command, 24/7 to provide this capability," said Air Force Col. Randall

Spear, the AOG commander. "Supplies from around the world are now flowing into Haiti as a direct result of this effort."

"Previously, aircraft flowing into Haiti had a gridlock of several hours

because there was no place to park or unload aircraft," Lt. Col. Brad Graff, director of the coordination center and chief of the 601st Air Mobility Division, said. "Now relief supplies - medical, water, and food - are steadily flowing into Haiti."

People from all over the world are talking with the Florida airmen to get a slot time on the ramp, Spear said, adding that Haitian authorities are only allowing landings from those with a slot time with the coordination center. The Haitian authorities dictate their priorities and needs to the coordination center through Southcom.

Florida Guardsmen also are assisting with the flow of air cargo into Homestead Air Reserve Base. They may pick up additional missions in other areas in order to maximize airlift to quake-ravaged Haiti.

"I am extremely proud of the professionalism of our Florida Guardsmen at the

101st AOG as well as the active duty airmen working beside them around-the-clock to ensure the protection of our homeland," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, Florida's adjutant general. "They are able to take their daily, superb skills and rise to new heights to ensure an effective air response to a critical situation in Haiti."

Working in Florida, and particularly being Florida Guardsmen, the 101st AOG

is experienced with natural disasters, enabling them to expedite the flow of critical resources into the area.

"We have become the experts in contingency response and planning when it

comes to employing air support in disasters," Spear said.

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Tittle serves with the Florida National Guard public affairs.)

Colonel Describes Orderly Traffic at Haiti Airport

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 17, 2010 - Six hundred flights carrying humanitarian personnel, relief provisions and evacuees have transited through the Port-au-Prince, Haiti, airport since the U.S. Air Force began operating there a day after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked Haiti Jan. 12. Air Force Col. Buck Elton, in an operational update with reporters today, added that no major security incidents have occurred at the airport since the Air Force personnel began overseeing the high volume of traffic.

"Since then, we've controlled approximately 600 takeoffs and landings from this 10,000-foot strip that normally operates three aircraft out of it on a daily basis," said Elton, commander of the U.S. forces directing flights at Haiti's airport.

"Everything has been very orderly," he added. "The Haitian police force is helping out tremendously with crowd control and with traffic control around the airfield, and we've had no major incidents."

In an update with Tim Callaghan of the U.S. Agency for International Development's foreign disaster assistance office, Elton said 24 patients have been brought to the airfield for treatment, including 16 Americans with what Elton described as "crush injuries."

While the rush of supplies and aid from other countries initially overwhelmed the airport's limited capacity, Elton said, the capacity for processing arriving and departing flights is improving steadily. He noted that about 60 percent of the flights coming in are civilian and 40 percent are military.

Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, but other reports elevate the figure to between 100,000 to 200,000.

For its part, the Defense Department has authorized up to $20 million in immediate aid to Haiti, and the nation's top military officer estimated that up to 10,000 U.S. troops would be in Haiti by tomorrow.

In his update, Elton underscored the speed with which Air Force personnel began operations after landing at the badly damaged airport around 7 p.m. on Jan. 13.

"Within 28 minutes of landing our first aircraft, we had special tactics combat control teams controlling the airspace around the airfield, and sequencing in the arriving aircraft that night," he said.

Obama Permits Reserve Activations for Haiti Effort

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 17, 2010 - President Barack Obama yesterday signed an order allowing the Defense Department to call certain military reservists to active duty as a result of humanitarian operations in Haiti. Released by the White House today, the executive order permits the Defense Department to activate reserve-component servicemembers such as reserve medical personnel, to backfill for those deployed aboard the USNS Comfort, and authorized the and Homeland Security Department to activate a Coast Guard unit for port security.

"Members of the armed forces ordered to active duty pursuant to these authorities will augment the active forces in support of operations for Haiti," reads a memo Obama wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate.

The order does not identify specific units to be activated, but the prerogative will be used on a limited basis, principally to support targeted functions associated with this humanitarian mission, according to a White House statement.

The order to allow for the activation of additional forces comes after the top U.S. commander in Haiti today predicted the security component of the U.S. humanitarian relief operation will take on a larger role there. Earlier estimates by the nation's top military officer and recent news reports that some 10,000 U.S. forces would be in Haiti by tomorrow.

As of this morning, the U.S. military had roughly 1,000 82nd Airborne Division soldiers on the ground in Haiti, and some 3,000 other troops working from ships docked off the Haitian coast. Two additional companies of the 82nd were due to arrive today, in addition to Marines aboard the USS Bataan and a Marine landing battalion expected to arrive in coming days.

Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, but other reports elevate the figure to between 100,000 to 200,000.

As relief provisions continue being distributed in the devastated country, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton agreed yesterday to President Barack Obama's request to lead a major fundraising push, lending their stature to the effort in hopes of sustaining international focus on the dire situation.

The addition of the two former presidents elevates the prominence of the U.S. effort, sending a symbol that Obama said he hopes will resonate internationally. The official Web site of the fund, http://www.clintonbushhaitifund.org, accepts donations and contains more information on the effort.

Troops Set Up Front Lines for Survival in Haiti

By Fred W. Baker III

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 17, 2010 - As the sun rises over the sweeping palms here, not much is certain about Army Lt. Col. Mike Foster's day. But one thing that is certain is that a hundred yards or so away, down a slope lined by a narrow, worn footpath, are thousands of earthquake survivors who will look to him and his troops for the basics of their survival.

Some nongovernmental estimates say about 50,000 Haitians sleep at night at the foot of this country club and golf course estate that the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, now calls home.

The scene would be spectacular, with sweeping views of the city to the east and the coastal sea to the west, but that north are some of those hit hardest by last week's earthquake. And many of those left homeless now are gathered at the bottom of Foster's hill, waiting for help.

"I don't know how the day's going to shape up," Foster said. "I know that we're going to be busy. I know that we're going to work real hard, and I'm confident that at the end of the day when the sun goes down, we will have made a difference."

Foster and his squadron of about 300 soldiers have been on the ground less than two days and already have passed out thousands of meals and bottles of water to the Haitians. At the same time, they're fortifying the abandoned and damaged estate into a military forward operating base.

Helicopters land constantly through the day on an open, grassy spot on the hill, dumping more troops and supplies from their bellies. Soldiers outline the perimeter. A gym becomes a sleeping area. The racquetball courts store troops' equipment. The swimming pool is lined with rucksacks.

Yesterday, the troops made their initial aid drop. They tried at first to move into the survivor camp to deliver the food, but the handful of troops, led by Foster, quickly became engulfed in a sea of screaming survivors. At the sight of some relief, the crowd became excited, and it was clear that the food could not be passed out in the camp. The troops were forced to retreat up the hill, behind their makeshift perimeter lined with white plastic lawn chairs.

Despite the initial chaos of the event, Foster called it a success. Haitian volunteers came forward to organize the distribution and to help in providing security.

"They were ones who got all of the kids up the hill and brought them first, not us. I think that's an enormously positive step," Foster said. "The handful of times you may have seen a guy or two want to get rowdy, they policed those guys up themselves. I think that is very, very important to how this continues to flow."

While the soldiers may be on the front line of the fight for survival, their first mission is to provide security and help to pave the way for the tremendous amount of humanitarian aid waiting to be pushed forward by organizations around the globe. So as some passed out meals, other troops started today interviewing local people, helping to identify their needs, surveying the area and feeding information back to higher headquarters that senior officials will need to know to increase the amount of relief in this area.

And with every helicopter that lands comes more troops, more meals and more water.

"We never look away from one [mission] just to do the other," Foster said. "With the assets and capabilities I have right now, I ask myself 'Where can I make the most good?' We're going to take every advantage of every opportunity we can to put aid and relief and supplies on anything that's coming in.

"At the end of the day, the intent is to get relief to the Haitian people," he said.

The need ranges from those who hardly were affected to those whose lives were devastated. Some already have received aid, others have not. Officials have to identify those who need the aid most and get it to them first, Foster said.

"You don't want to turn it into a 'survival of the fittest,' where you find a place that's easy to drop off supplies so you just continue to drop them off there," he said. "The rich in aid get richer. That's going to take some time to fully understand."

Medics also were out helping the injured today. One small boy came forward with his head severely bandaged. The Army medic worked to remove the crusted bandage to reveal the boy's scarred head. The wounds were several, but healing.

"Tell the boy he is handsome, and will be just fine," the medical told the interpreter.

Today's distribution went much smoother, with the lines less pushed, and flowing more evenly. It appeared, officials said, that the Haitians realized the troops were here to stay, and that if they cooperated, more aid will come.

Much of the calm also can be attributed to the manner in which the soldiers take on their security duties. The security is far from heavy-handed. The leaders here have said they see no threat from the local people, and they try to project that in their presence. Today, the soldiers were told to sling their rifles across their back, rather than holding them in the ready front position as is customary for most of these battle-hardened soldiers.

Also, no orders are barked. Men are referred to as "Sir," and the women as "Ma'am."

Yesterday, when the crowd became rowdy and tried to push forward, the captain in charge told his troops simply to sit down in the grass and stop passing out the meals. This quieted the crowd, which quickly realized that if they did not calm down, they would not any rations.

"Our guys bring a lot of experience in different kinds of operations, so they know when they need to be more aggressive or have different kind of approach to bring some calm to the group," said Army Maj. J.T. Eldridge, the squadron operations officer.

"I think the most important thing is to present that sense of calm -- the sense that we're here to help and we're going to continue to help," he said.

In the days after the quake, violence in some areas has impeded such U.S. military relief efforts, Army Lt. Gen. P.K. "Ken" Keen said. Keen, the top military commander in Haiti, toured the operating base today, surveying the layout.

"Security is a fundamental part of humanitarian assistance. You have to have a safe and secure environment in order to be successful," Keen said.

The general was in Haiti when the earthquake hit. He was visiting the ambassador's house, he said. "It seemed like it would never stop, and you could immediately tell this was going to be a major challenge," he said.

The general and the ambassador made their way out of the home, and from their vantage point saw the first glimpse of the damage left in its wake.

"We could see across the city and hear the screams and we could tell from all the dust that this was a tremendous tragedy," he said.

Keen said he called officials at U.S. Southern Command right then to ask for all the help they could deliver. The USS Carl Vinson turned around immediately, making its way toward Haiti.

Keen said he feels and understands the frustration of those who want more aid now.

"Ideally, when daylight came up, we would have been doing this," Keen said referring to the soldiers handing out water. "But this had to come from all over the world."

Still, with three other such distribution sites set up across the city, Keen said, what these soldiers are doing is a perfect example of more to come.

"I am satisfied that we are doing everything we can to get the supplies here as fast as we can and getting them to the people," he said. "I'm satisfied that we're doing everything that we can."

Gates Seeks to Broaden India Partnership

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is slated to leave today for India to discuss the comprehensive, strategic partnership between the United States and India, and ways to expand it to provide broader regional security. Gates is to visit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who President Barack Obama feted in late November with his administration's first state dinner.

He also is to meet with Defense Minister A.K. Antony, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell announced.

Gates last visited India in February 2008, but has interacted regularly with his counterparts there as part of the broad pattern of U.S. engagement that includes not only security, but also a range of other issues, a senior defense official told reporters.

"This is part of that broad plan to make sure that we continue to build patterns of cooperation and understand where our shared interests will lead to greater cooperation in the defense and security realm," he said.

Gates will explore with Indian leaders ways to expand the already-robust military-to-military relationship, deepen counterterrorism cooperation and bolster India's role in promoting security in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the entire South Asia region, he said.

The secretary also is expected to recognize India as a major donor in Afghanistan, funding several major reconstruction projects under way there.

The talks undoubtedly will address tensions between India and Pakistan. However, defense officials said they're gratified by both countries' growing recognition that their biggest threat is radical extremism, not each other.

Military trade is likely to be discussed, but Morrell emphasized that Gates' visit is intended to deepen relations with a growing global economic, political and security leader, not to sell weapons.

"The secretary is traveling to India because we have strong bilateral relations with that country and need to nurture and grow those," he said. "That is a priority."

Military exercises between the United States and India have increased in size and scope every year since 2002, the defense official noted.

The two armies conducted their largest joint military exercise yet in October, when 250 25th Infantry Division soldiers deployed to India with 17 Stryker combat vehicles to train with India's 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion. In addition, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III led the Defense Planning Group, which he co-chairs, during its visit to India in early November for top-level security talks.

"The United States and India have made great strides in our defense relationships as strategic partners over the past five years. Our relationship is strong and growing," Lynn told reporters in New Delhi. "The world's two largest democracies working together on defense issues sends a powerful message."

Gates' visit marks the most senior-level engagement between the United States and India since Obama hosted Singh at the White House just before Thanksgiving. During that visit, Obama and Singh signed a memo of understanding on "Advancing Global Security and Countering Terrorism," and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missile and nuclear weapons technology.

"In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region," Obama said after meeting with Singh. "And the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia."

Gates initially planned to travel to Australia en route to India, but postponed that visit to focus on military support for the disaster response mission in Haiti.

Haitian Evacuees Sent to Joint Base McGuire

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 18, 2010 - Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., welcomed and provided resources for more than 500 evacuees from Haiti this weekend at an evacuation center created on base. "The morale here could never be higher," Air Force Col. Gina Grosso, commander of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said during a Jan. 17 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Several federal agencies including the Departments of Defense, State, and Health and Human Services, along with state government and community groups, helped to ensure the evacuees were properly cared for when they arrived back in the United States.

The team provided immediate care such as showers, food, medical care and transportation to make sure that each evacuee reached their final destinations. Local Haitian churches also provided translators to help with language barriers.

The C-17 Globemaster IIIs that brought in the evacuees had flown military personnel and equipment to the disaster area the day before, Grosso said.

After clearing U.S. Customs, Grosso said the first thing many evacuees did was charge their cell phones and began contacting family members and making travel arrangements home.

Most evacuees traveled to Philadelphia or Newark to catch flights home. The New Jersey Department of Human Services provided shuttles to New York. "Individuals told us where they needed to go and [we] facilitated to get them to their final destination," Grosso said.

Several evacuees were treated for minor injuries including fractures, scrapes, bruises and infections. "If they were seriously injured, they weren't supposed to get on the plane," the colonel said.

Some injuries also became worst during the flight and several people were treated for broken bones and complications from not being treated for several days. But overall, she said, "They are, generally, in very good conditions."

Grosso also said that there was no real way to prepare for the evacuees. "We received a phone call late Thursday night. We didn't have a plan on the shelf that we pulled out, but it was a combination of previous experience from the leadership team matching with the experience our local resources have."

It was a great example of agencies working well together, Grosso said. "The Department of Defense called the state, and then the state called the federal government. As soon as they knew the services we needed, they came right away.

"You really can't describe how good you feel" Helping the evacuees, Gross said. It was a total team effort, she said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Security Role in Haiti to Gain Prominence, Keen Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 17, 2010 - 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 7-magnitude earthquake that struck five days ago, the top U.S. commander in Haiti said today. 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."

Keen said they are looking at the incidents of violence "very closely." "We do need, obviously, a safe and secure environment to continue and do the best we can with the humanitarian assistance," he said on Fox News.

Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, but other reports elevate the figure to between 100,000 to 200,000.

Despite reports of violence in the quake's aftermath, troops from the 82nd Airborne Division yesterday delivered 70,000 bottles of water and 130,000 packages of food, said Keen, the commander of the joint task force for the Haiti relief effort that has been dubbed Operation Unified Response.

"We're going to be able to increase that every day, but that's only what we are doing," Keen, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said of the distribution of provisions. "The United Nations forces are doing likewise, as well as the international community."

The food packages, which contain some 2,300 calories designed to maintain a person's basic nutrition needs, are a fraction of the 600,000 total rations the Defense Department will provide in addition to other support made possible through funding from the up to $20 million emergency relief the department pledged to the operation in Haiti.

Implementing these efforts for the U.S. military currently are roughly 1,000 82nd Airborne Division soldiers and some 3,000 other troops working from ships docked off the Haitian coast. Two additional companies of the 82nd are due to arrive today, in addition to Marines aboard the USS Bataan and a Marine landing battalion expected in country in coming days. Officials have estimated that some 10,000 U.S. military troops would be operating in Haiti by tomorrow.

Military efforts, which are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development that is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission, are focused on working with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, international relief organizations and local responders to provide search and rescue, distribute aid and assess damage to key infrastructure, officials said.

Keen noted that domestic police forces in the Haitian capital were among those affected by the quake, which he said adds to security concerns there.

"The police that was providing security at various locations around the city of Port-au-Prince was devastated by the hurricane as well," he said on CNN's State of the Union. "So security is a concern. We're paying very close attention to it."

Keen called the earthquake a "disaster of epic proportions," adding that the military would be available for as long as it's needed, and underscoring the speed of its response.

"Our nation can be proud, because our Navy immediately turned a aircraft carrier south right after the earthquake," he said of the USS Carl Vinson, which is serving as a platform for the helicopter capabilities that currently provide the military's principal support. "And as we move other equipment in here, we'll be able to get more ground transportation to increase our tentacles out into the countryside."

As relief provisions continue being distributed in the devastated country, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have agreed to President Barack Obama's request to lead a major fundraising push, lending their stature to the effort in hopes of sustaining international focus on the dire situation.

The addition of the two former presidents elevates the prominence of the U.S. effort, a symbol that Obama said he hopes will carry international reverberations. The official Web site of the fund, http://www.clintonbushhaitifund.org, accepts donations and contains more information on the effort.

Defense Department Authorizes Up $20 Million in Immediate Haiti Relief

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 16, 2010 - The Defense Department has authorized up to $20 million in immediate aid to Haiti as part of an international push to bring relief to the country in the wake of the 7-magnitude earthquake that struck Jan. 12. The department's Haiti disaster relief execution order will provide funding for humanitarian disaster relief and civic aid that includes up 600,000 humanitarian daily rations, food packages of about 2,300 calories designed to maintain a person's basic nutrition needs, according to officials.

The assistance is part of a substantial relief effort by the Defense Department that, as of last night, included 4,200 U.S. military personnel supporting task force operations within Haiti in addition to Navy and Coast Guard vessels offshore.

An additional 6,300 military personnel are scheduled to arrive through the weekend and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yesterday estimated that up to 10,000 U.S. troops would be in Haiti by Monday.

"As you hear the numbers increase to some 9,000 to 10,000 by Monday, many of them will be offshore in the ships certainly providing this critical support as well and very focused on the medical needs, the food needs the water needs," he told Pentagon reporters yesterday, adding that the number of U.S. personnel in Haiti could increase over time. White House officials today said 26 urban search and rescue teams from the U.S. continue operating in Haiti after rescuing 15 people, with Haitians and Americans among those rescued. An official noted that the prospect of finding additional survivors in operations lasting at least through tomorrow is still possible.

An official said 180 tons of food had been delivered as of yesterday, and that five emergency health centers are currently in operation. Other aid workers are engaged in distributing food, purifying water and providing sanitation.

The Red Cross estimates between 40,000 and 50,000 people were killed in what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

Military efforts, which are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development that is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission, are focused on working with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, international relief organizations and local responders to provide search and rescue, distribute aid and assess damage to key infrastructure, officials said.

With approval from the Haitian government, U.S. Air Force air traffic control and airfield management personnel are managing air operations into the international airport at the national capital of Port-au-Prince. The airfield is open for 24-hour operations and has a 90-aircraft-per-day capability.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Higgins are operating off the Haitian coast in support of the task force. USS Carl Vinson has 19 embarked helicopters flying airlift missions in support of relief efforts. The carrier also is delivering more than 30 pallets of relief supplies for distribution to affected areas.

Garamone's Blog: Comfort Crew Gets Off to Good Start

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 16, 2010 - It's pretty amazing that the USNS Comfort is able to do what it does. This ship, now going to Haiti to provide relief for a ravaged country, has a caretaker crew most of the time. About 80 sailors and another 60 civilian mariners maintain the ship between deployments. The Comfort deploys for scheduled operations about once every two years. The ship came back from a deployment providing humanitarian aid last year.

But the earthquake in Haiti – one of the poorest countries in the world – meant that the ship had to deploy.

The ship needed a full crew. They needed to get the dining facility running and they needed to turn on the water all over the ship. And they needed to ensure there were berths for the medical detachments that poured in from around the Navy.

The scheduled deployments are planned to the nth degree. There are site visits and exchanges with the U.S. embassies and nongovernmental agencies. This deployment is just "grab it and go."

And the medical staff and crew are doing it. Most of the medical staff comes from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. But there are force protection sailors and corpsmen from more distant bases. The aviation detachment is from Norfolk, Va.

In many cases, this trip is the first time these sailors have met each other.

There is confusion. The first night, sailors were wandering the passageways – that's what the Navy calls halls – looking for their bunks. Cargo handlers stacked supplies on the flight deck, knowing it was more important to get underway than it was to have everything perfectly stowed. Just learning everyone's name took time.

But there has been amazing cooperation among the crew and the medical staff. They understand they have a mission to save lives and everything else is secondary.

That they can work together at all is a testament to their dedication. That they work together so well is a tribute to their military and professional training.

This will be a long deployment, and it will be tough. But it's been a good beginning.

(Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service is reporting and blogging from USNS Comfort during its humanitarian deployment to Haiti.)

Air Force Medical Service Works Around Challenges



By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 16, 2010 - The military has a well-known knack for building modern facilities in remote locations to support servicemembers. In the wake of disasters like this week's earthquake in the Caribbean, the services have stepped up to use their deployable assets, especially hospitals, to help Haitians. Col. Mark Mavity, chief of medical readiness for the Air Force surgeon general, discussed the Air Force Medical Service's deployable capabilities and how they can be used to help the people of Haiti in a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable today.

The primary capabilities the Air Force is concerned with in Haiti, Mavity said, are primary and preventive care, surgical capability and some intensive holding capacity. The footprint is small, he said, with at most perhaps 25 beds available. The idea, he said, is to get the patients stable enough to be moved to a location where they can be better treated.

Mavity said though eight of Haiti's hospitals were damaged to the point of inoperability, the majority of their medical facilities are up and running, though they're strained by the volume of injuries that need to be treated.

"The capabilities of those facilities, even before the earthquake, were very limited in their capacity – both in size and in availability of equipment and medications," he said. "[Now] they're being overwhelmed by the demand."

It's difficult to set up hospitals and bases on the island, Mavity said, because the earthquake damaged what little open space was left. So while components are setting up at the airport in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, they're quickly running out of room.

Getting services out to other cities on the island, where the damage, in some cases, is worse, has been one of the biggest challenge for first responders from the Air Force, Mavity said. The nature of their capability -- quick stabilizing response and patient movement -- makes the airport an ideal location, especially because the medical facilities are so stripped down. The size of the operation does allow for flexibility in operating farther from the airport, he said, but there are special challenges related to that. Power and water supplies, shelter for troops, force protection and vehicles aren't an "organic" asset for the medical stations, so they have to rely on other military or other agencies' infrastructure, the colonel explained. They can't operate independently wherever they want to set up shop.

"The difficulty is, because our platforms are so light and lean, we are very dependent. ... We have to be married with some base operating support elements," he said. "That begins to play into the algebra of where we can actually put [facilities]."

Mavity said the personnel on the ground in Haiti, in addition to beginning medical relief efforts, also are looking forward to seeing how best to work around the issue of location, and how best to create the "air bridge" that will connect their first-response facilities to better-equipped hospitals, such as the Navy's hospital ship USNS Comfort, which is en route.

"Some of those folks are working the whole command-and-control elements and site assessment, as well as being very helpful in the initial discussions with our [Air Mobility Command] and [U.S. Transportation Command] folks to start thinking about how best to build this air bridge for patient movement, and exactly how much we'll need, and what kind of folks we're going to need to get that done effectively," Mavity said. "I can't thank those folks enough for the fantastic job they've done."

As the initial team and additional forces combine, they'll work to get the best of their capabilities, and hope to move some assets into the cities, where they can help more people, Mavity said.

"The Air Force Medical Service has that very unique ability to get the right care to the right people in a very short amount of time," he said. "I think we're doing a fantastic job of that, and we'll continue to do so over the days and weeks to follow."

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Airborne Troops Provide First Glimpse of Relief



By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 16, 2010 - Hundreds of 82nd Airborne Division troops from Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived here overnight in the first wave of putting a substantial U.S. military relief effort in place in the wake of this week's devastating earthquake. As many as 3,500 soldiers are expected to be on the ground here in just a few short days, as the military finds itself caught somewhere in the middle of finding its feet and moving out to help the tens of thousands left with nothing after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Air Force C-17s started hauling troops and equipment from the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment yesterday, with the rest of the 800 or so soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team being delivered by ongoing flights through the night.

The planes were packed making use of every square inch of space. Soldiers stacked in with military vehicles, water and other equipment and supplies. With the airport here maxed out on its ability to manage the number of flights coming in and out, officials wanted to waste neither time or space.

"Air planes are stacked up the 'wazoo' up there trying to get down here," one colonel said just before his troops exited the C17.

The military flights were delayed somewhat yesterday simply because of the limited capacity of the airport. It is, however, running 24-hour operations with flights coming in from around the world as nations reach out to one of the globe's poorest countries.

Army Maj. Larry Jordan, with 1st Squadron, 73rd Infantry Regiment, was on the ground yesterday surveying where the incoming troops would go. Most of the troops here were sleeping under the stars. A handful of tents were scattered about. For the most part there is no running water or electricity.

Right now, the troops are tasked with paving the way for the massive amounts of humanitarian aid coming to reach the communities safely. They provide airport security and a detachment watches over the embassy.

Locals waved at the military helicopters flying over the city today. Acres of tin-roofed shanties were flattened. Toward the mountains, closer to the main impact of the quake, larger buildings had collapsed. Most of the houses are built near or connected to each other so entire blocks were collectively crushed.

"The devastation is absolutely amazing," Jordan said.

Many survivors have set up camps out in the open football-field sized areas. Brightly-colored tarps provide cover for them and the few personal items they were able to recover from the wreckage.

Still, Jordan said that he did not see a lot of crime or looting in the neighborhoods he visited. He also said several Haitian police, both local and national, out in the streets.

"It was not the wild, wild west. There were not gangs of lawless machete wielders running around all over the place," he said.

Jordan did see a lot of locals trying to continue clearing the buildings, removing rubble, and cleaning the streets.

In some of the places he was the first uniformed personnel, providing a sense of hope for relief, Jordan said. Today, the troops are moving out into forward operating bases in the city. Once their bases are established they will begin moving into the cities to help set up the security to deliver humanitarian aid, officials said.

USNS Comfort Begins Race to Haiti

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

January 16, 2010 - The USNS Comfort cast off lines this morning in Baltimore to begin the race to aid the people of Haiti. The hospital ship is loaded with medical expertise and supplies. Sailors from medical facilities all over the United States have arrived and are planning how to best deliver medical care.

"At this juncture the leadership of USNS Comfort is making every effort to expedite our arrival in Haiti, said Navy Lt. Bashon Mann, the ship's public affairs officer. "The expected arrival date is Thursday (Jan. 21,) but we are moving as fast as we safely can to hasten the arrival in Haiti to begin delivering patient care."

The Comfort is a large white ship with red crosses painted on it. Haiti was a stop on its last deployment in 2009 and that is helping the medical professionals now as they head to the nation.

"We have people in contact with people in Haiti planning on how we will be able to help when we arrive," Mann said.

Medical planners are using the transit time to flesh out plans. The medical staff and crew are working to be able to immediately start delivering care once the ship arrives in Haitian waters. Two helicopters will fly aboard the ship later this afternoon. The choppers will join a growing fleet of aircraft operating to aid Haiti.

Red Cross officials fear that the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Jan. 12 killed between 40,000 and 50,000 people. Many thousands have been injured and most hospitals in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital and epicenter of the quake, have been destroyed.

The comfort brings 19 operating rooms, and intensive-care facility, and hundreds of beds to the humanitarian mission.

Getting the Comfort ready was a rush job, to say the least. The Navy notified most of the personnel that they would deploy on Jan. 13. Buses brought the medical staff to the ship yesterday, and sailors searched for their berths, muster stations and workspaces until late in the night.

Cranes lifted medical supplies, equipment and foodstuffs onto the helipad, and sailors lifted and heaved to store the supplies even as the ship began moving.