Haiti has been in the view and focus of our nation and the world during the last couple of months following their devastating earthquake in January! U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, Deputy Commanding General Joint Task Force (JTF)-Haiti gave the Blogger Roundtable an update on the current situation in Haiti this morning. The general became the deputy commander of the JTF on 9 March and is overseeing the drawdown as we go from a 20,000 military member task force at the peak of our humanitarian assistance to its current force of 2,400 with the JTF planning to close in May.
The early JTF objectives of medical care for the injured and rations/water for the Haitians have been met and the focus is now on Shelter, Settlement and Sanitation according to General Trombitas. The coordination with the Haitian government, United Nation forces, other US government agencies and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) was the key to successfully meeting the objectives. He described humanitarian assistance as unique when compared to a military operation with no adversary except for nature and the results of the earthquake. With that in mind the US military response featured coordination and collaboration instead of command and control. When I spoke with the 82nd Airborne Division leadership’s comment on their great relationship with the NGOs (see "Dignity, Respect, Order": 82nd Airborne Division in Haiti - DoD Roundtable) I wanted to know why the relationship had improved and General Trombitas explained. He felt that the reason for the great rapport was due to the military experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq working in different cultures with numerous different government agencies. Another key was the individual soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors and coast guard personnel initiative and effort! He said he had not spoken to one member of our armed services who was not very proud of what they had done for the Haitians (and we should be just as proud of them for their efforts)!
Much of the US military’s early effort to support the government of Haiti and its people have now been replaced by functioning government agencies, the United Nations and NGOs! However, with the rainy season approaching the displaced persons camps are being placed in better locations with roads built by Seabees and other engineer groups. The current camps will have standing water when the rains begin and will create an atmosphere for diseases to spread so moving to better locations is critical to the health of the internal displace persons and the nation. With functional airports supported by Air Force controllers and the sea ports repaired by Navy and Army divers the flow of supplies has quickened and the lifestyle is improving due to their Herculean efforts to repair and improve functionality. The general said the lessons learned included how flexible our military can be, quick disbursement of food and water, the necessity of medical care and a calm security situation are keys to a successful humanitarian response! He compared the situation to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with the resulting breakdown of security that occurs after a major natural disaster but that the UN forces and 82nd had quickly established control.
The general concluded with how proud he was to be part of JTF Haiti and of the fantastic performance of all of our service members! Thank you General Trombitas and the men and women of the JTF and those who supported them in the United States! If you would like to listen to the audio of the Roundtable or read the transcript please go to DoDLive!
Photo Credit: Haitians carry bags of rice from in front the Presidential Palace in Port au Prince, Haiti on Jan. 25, 2010. Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan.12, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Prentice Colter)
Photo Credit: 100312-N-5961C-007 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (March 12, 2010) Construction Electrician 3rd Class Danny Hartless, from Clarksville, Tenn., assigned to Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7, clears rubble and rebar from the demolished Hotel Montana, the former four-star hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Seabees from NMCB-7 are supporting Operation Unified Response after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated parts of Haiti Jan. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Spike Call/Released
Photo Credit: U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, deputy commanding general, JTF-Haiti DoDLive