In the last few days, US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has deployed its forces to Haiti to support ongoing humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) efforts after the Caribbean nation was hit by a deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14.
The deployment of US military assets to Haiti came after SOUTHCOM established Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-H) on August 15 – a day after the earthquake struck the nation. The newly created task force is being led by US Navy RADM Keith Davids, who is the commander of US Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH). This relief mission will join ongoing US Coast Guard support operations in the country.
In preparation for the HA/DR support mission, a US Air Force (USAF)-operated Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules transported a 14-person SOUTHCOM Situational Awareness Team (SSAT) from SOCSOUTH from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 15.
This team will work with US government diplomatic and disaster-assistance personnel to assess the situation in the areas affected by the earthquake. Its assessments will be used by SOUTHCOM mission planners to identify the US military capabilities that are needed and available to support the HA/DR efforts at the request of the government of Haiti.
In addition to this team, US Navy Boeing Insitu ScanEagle small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) and Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) have been used to provide aerial images of the areas devastated by the recent earthquake. According to the US Navy, these “images will be used by experienced disaster relief planners to determine what relief capabilities and supplies are needed immediately and where.”
Three Boeing CH-47 Chinooks, three Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and two HH-60 Black Hawks from the US Army’s Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B) – which supports rescue, HA/DR and security missions in Honduras, Guatemala and Panama – have been reassigned to support the ongoing operation in Haiti. These helicopters are based at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, and are en-route to the Caribbean nation to provide critical airlift support.
This is not the first time that SOUTHCOM has supported HA/DR missions in Haiti in the aftermath of previous natural disasters. In 2016, the command sent military assets to help the government of Haiti after the nation was struck by Hurricane Matthew.
SOUTHCOM has also helped Haiti to better prepare for natural disasters with the construction of emergency operations centres, disaster relief warehouses, fire stations and community centres that double as shelters. In the past, the command has also donated search and rescue boats and transport vehicles to the Haitian emergency response and civil protection agencies.