Posts filed under ‘Haiti’
Marine Corps Aviation Centennial
Back in 1985, when I was an Associated Press reporter in New York, my editor asked me to help cover the Vietnam Veterans parade that would march across the Brooklyn Bridge to the city’s brand new Vietnam Memorial in lower Manhattan.
A park on the Brooklyn side of the bridge was the staging area for the parade. As I was interviewing some veterans of the 1st Marine Division, several UH-1 “Huey” helicopters streaked overhead with their rotor blades making a menacing, “Apocalypse Now” whup, whup, whup sound.
But when the Marine and Amy vets around me looked up, they pumped their fists in the air and let loose with a primal roar that drowned out the choppers and city traffic noise.
“That’s the sound of the cavalry coming,” one Marine vet shouted to me over the din. “When you heard that sound, it meant you were O.K. You were going to get out alive.”
The memory of that moment came back to me last week as I toured an exhibit of Marine Corps combat art, marking 100 years of Leatherneck aviation, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. More than Navy or Air Force fliers, Marine Corps aviators have always had a close relationship with the grunts on the ground. Close air support was a concept pioneered by the Marines in the Central American “Banana Wars” of the 1920s and 1930s — and has been a key part of Marine Corps air doctrine ever since.
There were lots of paintings and drawings of Marines dashing off Hueys into Vietnam rice paddies among the 91 artworks on exhibit — all of them on loan from the National Museum of the Marines Corps in Virginia. The exhibit also included a painting of Marine infantrymen under fire on a snowy Korean hillside while an F4U Corsair fighter plane provides close air support. Another, painted by Alex Raymond, the creator of the Flash Gordon comic strip in the 1930s — who served with the Marines in World War II – shows Marine fighter pilots describing a dog fight during an after action debriefing.
The exhibit, “Fly Marines! The Centennial of Marine Corps Aviation: 1912-2012,” celebrates the 100 years since 1st Lt. Alfred Cunningham signed up as an aviation trainee in May 1912. A few months later he soloed in a Curtis seaplane — after just two hours and 40 minutes of instruction — becoming the first Marine Corps aviator, less than nine years after the Wright brothers’ first flight.
The exhibit, which opened Jan. 14 and runs through Jan. 6, 2013, includes paintings drawings and sculptures of all types of helicopters, jets and piston-driven aircraft — and the Marines who flew them – from World War I to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also a few artifacts like the pilot’s wings of Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, the legendary Black Sheep Squadron leader and top Marine Corps ace of World War II.
One unique detail of the exhibit: nearly all of the artwork on display was done by artists who either are, or were, serving Marines. Since 1942, the Marine Corps has had a contingent of combat artists to record what war really was like for the Leathernecks. Once numbering as many as 70 trained artists, they sketched and painted what they saw at sea, in the air and on the ground — often in combat zones around the world. Now there is only one full-time artist, Staff Sgt. Kristopher Battles.
He described to 4GWAR and other reporters attending a press preview of the exhibit how he carried a 9 millimeter sidearm and an M-16 rifle as well as a camera, watercolor paints and a sketchpad when he went out on patrol with Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two of Battles’ paintings are on display at the Air & Space exhibit, as well as his artist’s kit.
You can just make out Battles’ paintings of a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter on the wall behind and to the left of the flight suit-wearing mannequin in the photo above (click on the photo to enlarge). You can get a better view of both works at his personal website Sketchpad Warrior.
Battles, who served in the Marines and reserves from 1986 to 1996, has a fine arts degree from Northeast Missouri State University. He re-joined the Corps as a combat artist in 2006 at the urging of the then-last remaining combat artist, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Fay. Battles had e-mailed Fay to say he admired his work and when Fay learned he was both a former Marine sergeant and an artist, he and combat art program officials asked him to consider re-upping. In September of 2006 Battles, who was then 38, reported to Marine Base Quantico for training and a month later he was on his way to Iraq.
In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, Battles has been deployed to Haiti — where he once was a missionary — to record the Marines’ humanitarian relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake. Battles, who learned Creole French in his missionary days, also helped as a translator.
The staff sergeant said he considered himself lucky to have come under fire infrequently in combat zones. His predecessor, Fay, was wounded in Iraq, he noted. Battles said it can be difficult looking for subject material with a painter’s eye while on a combat patrol. “You still have to be on guard and watching as a Marine. It’s an interesting juggling act,” he said. Occasionally he ran across a gunnery sergeant or 1st sergeant that didn’t know about combat artists or that “we’re trained Marines,” who balked at taking the artist on patrols. “But most of my experience has been quite positive,” Battles said, adding “Once you start sketching a Marine in the field, they kind of perk up a little bit. It’s a morale builder.”
To see more of the Fly Marines exhibit click here. The National Air and Space Museum museum is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC at Sixth St. and Independence Ave. S.W.
To see more of the 8,000 artworks in the collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, click here. That museum is located at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway, Triangle, Virginia — not far from the Quantico Marine Base.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
SHAKO: Musings on the Military Past and Present
As we celebrated Independence Day 2011, we got to thinking about the modern day successors to those 18th Century patriots who dropped everything and came running when their country was in need: the National Guard.
Historians say the Guard (or state militia as it was once known) began in 1636 when officials in Massachusetts Bay Colony created three militia regiments to protect that British colony from Indian attacks.
In 1903, Congress passed the Militia Act that organized all the state militias into the National Guard. More than 50,000 guardsman were called up to provide security at home and counter terrorism overseas following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Tens of thousands have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air National Guard has more than 140 units in the states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the last year, the Guard has responded to wildfires, floods and tornadoes, boosted the size of U.S. Forces overseas and conducted training missions with friendly armed forces. Here’s just a small sample of what these citizen soldiers have been up to in 2011.
Airmen from the 114th Fighter Wing, Sioux Falls S.D., finish a section of levee in the Bay Hill area of Dakota Dunes. The levees that soldiers and airmen built with the joint effort of civilian volunteers and several local, state and federal agencies, will require security and patrolling efforts. The 114th Fighter wing has been assigned to round-the-clock patrols of this 3.8 mile stretch of levee along the shores of the Missouri River.
Missouri National Guard personnel and a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter assisted Atchison County authorities repair levee L550 near Phelps City during severe flooding along the Missouri River. The Blackhawk was used to move over 145 Sandbags weighing two thousand pounds each onto areas of the levee damaged by rising water. The guardsmen were from the 106th Aviation Regiment, 129th Field Artillery and 1107th Aviation Group.
A Texas National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk drops water over hot spots as helicopters from Austin Army Aviation Support Facility battled wildfires near the Possum Kingdom Lake area in North Texas. The aircraft are equipped with a Bambi Bucket, which carries over 600 gallons of water.
Female members of the Air National Guard place sandbags to protect against possible flooding from the Missouri River outside Rosecrans Memorial Airport, St. Joseph, Missouri. These airmen are assigned to the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard. Working with local community volunteers they helped pile up 24,000 sandbags.
In addition to emergency response in the United States, and duties in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Haiti and Kosovo, the National Guard is also helping to train friendly forces overseas.
Here Sgt. 1st Class Charles Young of North Carolina National Guard observes as soldiers of the Moldovan army’s 22nd Peace Keeping Battalion during a training exercise in June. The Moldovans showed off their capabilities as a unit before their NATO evaluation, a weeklong exercise called Peace Shield 2011.
Di ‘ahh’, tanpri
That’s the phrase for “Say ‘Ahh, please,” in Haitian Creole French.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. James Wong, a nurse practitioner assigned to Task Force Bon Voizen, may not have known that, so he resorted to the old fashioned way of encouraging a boy to stick out his tongue during a medical exam in Desdunes, Haiti.
Task Force Bon Voizen, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint humanitarian exercise, was launched in Haiti at the end of April. Under the leadership of the Louisiana National Guard, task force personnel treated more than 800 dental patients and nearly 23,000 medical patients. Veterinary technicians also treated almost 1,500 animals, and engineers built a school and two clinics during the mission’s run.
To see a slideshow on the efforts of 1st Lt. Wong and other medicos in the task force, click here. For a photo slide show about the veterinary operation’s efforts to treat chickens, click here. For a full report on Task Force Bon Voizen (which, by the way, translates to ‘Good Neighbor’) click here.
HAITI: Uproar Over Cholera Report
A French epidemiologist’s report says “massive contamination” of Haiti’s Artibonite River led to the outbreak of cholera in that country, killing more than 2,000 people, according to press accounts. The report implicates United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal – who are based on the river – as a likely source of the contamination.
But officials, including a scientist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ,say the evidence is not conclusive. Meanwhile, Nepal has condemned the report’s allegation, which has led to sometimes violent protests by Haitians. In Kathmandu, Nepalese officials insisted their troops were not the source of the water-borne illness, which is endemic in Nepal, but hadn’t been seen in Haiti for decades.
AFGHANISTAN: Strategy Shift
The second-highest-ranking military official at the Pentagon says NATO commanders in Afghanistan are shifting focus from a counter insurgency campaign to counter terrorism strategy. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Washington conference that “the emphasis is shifting.”
Because the Taliban and foreign terrorists can flee into Pakistan after attacking coalition forces, more focus will be placed on cutting enemy communications and supply lines as well as disrupting recruiting new personnel, Cartwright told the Government Executive 2010 Leadership Briefings at the National Press Club.
AFGHANISTAN: Looking to Cut Civilian Casualties
U.S. forces battling insurgents and foreign terrorists in southern Afghanistan are looking for ways to avoid or at least reduce the number of civilian casualties. And one area under consideration is the use of non-lethal weapons, according to the ARES blog.
Marine Corps Major Gen. Richard Mills, chief of Regional Command Southwest, says he hopes to add non-lethal weapons – like stun guns, pepper spray and access denial technology – to his tool kit.
Let ‘em Eat Cake, They’ve Earned It
Nov. 10 is the 235th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, which got its start when the Continental Congress resolved on Nov. 10, 1775 to create two battalions of Marines. Capt. (later Major) Samuel Nichols — considered the Corps’ first commandant — advertised in and around Philadelphia for “a few good men” and signed them up at Tun Tavern in Philly.
We at 4GWAR will be celebrating our Blog’s first birthday on Friday, Nov. 12, so we harbor a warm spot for other organizations born under the sign of Scorpio.
The Marine Corps Birthday is a big deal with the Corps (as big as Saint Crispin’s Day in England) and has been since 1921, when then-Commandant Major Gen. John LeJeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, summarizing the history, tradition and mission of the Marine Corps and directing that the order be read to every command on every subsequent Nov. 10, the Marine Corps Birthday.
Since 1952, the Marine Corps has had another tradition: the cake cutting ceremony. The 20th USMC commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the ceremony, stating the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest Marine present, who passes it to the youngest Marine.
In the photo above, Gen. Amos is cutting the cake with a Mameluke sword, the traditional sword of Marine officers, commemorating the Corps’ first post-Independence landing on foreign shores. So Happy Birthday Leathernecks and here’s to Presley O’Bannon and the seven Marines who landed on the shores of Tripoli. Let’s also toast Smedley Butler, John LeJeune (which people in-the-know say is actually pronounced LeZhurn) John Basilone, “Chesty” Puller, John Philip Sousa and Dan Daly, the man behind our favorite Marine Corps story … and to all the other Marines who’ve signed on since 1775.
God bless the United States and success to the Marines, as the traditional toast goes.
Food for Thought
This week 4GWAR made the rounds of the Washington policy institutions – think tanks – where reports were issued and discussions held on improving U.S. relations with the world’s biggest democracy and how to create police and law enforcement systems in under-developed countries in extremis. Details on each study will be appearing on 4GWAR next week.
A new Passage to India Urged
In advance of President Barack Obama’s planned state visit to India in November, a Washington think tank is urging the U.S. to strengthen ties with India, the world’s largest democracy.
One way for Washington to do that, says the Center for a New American Strategy (CNAS) is to “commit publicly and explicitly” to working with New Delhi to admit India as a permanent member of an enlarged United Nations Security Council.
The CNAS report, A Blueprint for the Future of India-U.S. Relations, also recommends seeking a broad expansion of bilateral trade with India, including a Bilateral Investment Treaty; increasing the security relationship between the two nations and liberalizing U.S. export controls to make it easier for India to purchase high tech weapons platforms and defense equipment.
Written by two former U.S. diplomatic troubleshooters – ambassadors Richard Armitage and R. Nicholas Burns – along with CNAS Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine, the report grew out of an eight-month review of U.S.-India relations by a 22-member non-partisan working group.
While the two countries are unlikely to ever become formal defense treaty allies, the security relationship has been growing between Washington and New Delhi for the past decades – especially since the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 – the report notes that the U.S. now holds more military exercises with India – one of the world’s nuclear-armed countries – than with any other country.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council includes five permanent members with veto powers: the U.S., China; Russia, Britain and France.
Creating Police Under Fire
A retired U.S. Army general, who oversaw programs to build law enforcement systems in Haiti in the 1990s and in Iraq during the 2007 “surge” in U.S. counter insurgency efforts says recruiting, training and deploying new police officers in a vacuum is a recipe for failure.
“Creating police is not a numbers game. Numbers are important but they do not determine effectiveness,” Lt. Gen. James Dubik (Ret.) writes in a new report in the Best Practices in Counterinsurgency series issued by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Dubik says creating a law enforcement system in a strife-torn nation is a multi-dimensional effort that should also include development of a prison system and a judiciary. “Police are only part of a nation’s law enforcement structures,” Dubik writes, adding: “Rule of law requires both courts and prisons. Efforts to establish an adjudication system and a confinement system must take place simultaneously with the police and law enforcement systems.”
But he acknowledges that development of those three entities won’t follow a uniform timeline – especially in countries where they either haven’t existed or have been weakened by corruption.
Dubik, who has visited Afghanistan annually since 2008 to study military and police programs there, says it’s also important to realize that in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, getting law enforcement up to the standards of developed countries will take time – a lot of time in some cases. But assisting entities like the U.S. or NATO countries shouldn’t allow those standards to delay progress that is “good enough for now, given the circumstances.”
Creating a national police force requires embedding advisors and assigning a partner unit, the report urges. That has often been hit or miss in Iraq and Afghanistan. Training Afghan police has been fragmented within the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTMA). The U.S. does not have a national, uniformed police force, so police training has been assigned to nations with a national gendarmerie like Italy and Germany.
One way to measure a police force’s improvement is feedback from those it is policing, the ISW reports says. It urges polling citizens as soon as possible to establish a baseline and measure progress.
Numerous officials from NTMA have told 4GWAR and other bloggers that Afghanistan’s police are not trusted by the local populace and don’t have a clear idea of the concept of serving and protecting the public.
Military Mission Shrinking in Haiti (Adds background)
Six months after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shattered Haiti, the U.S. military is still assisting relief efforts in the impoverished Caribbean country.
But U.S. military presence on the island of Hispaniola has shrunk markedly since the initial response. U.S. Southern Command, which oversaw the massive relief effort, officially ended its mission in Haiti’s capital of Port-Au-Prince on June 1.
In the weeks after the Jan. 12 quake, elements of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, the Marine Corps’ 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, Air Force combat air controllers and cargo lifters, Coast Guard cutters, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and other Navy vessels, Navy Seabees and Army engineers and numerous other units took part in rescue, recovery and humanitarian aid operations.
At its peak, the U.S. military effort included 22,000 personnel — 7,000 based on land and the remainder operating aboard 58 aircraft and 15 nearby vessels, according to Southcom.
Now only about 600 soldiers, sailors and airmen, assigned to Joint Task Force New Horizons, are engaged in engineering and medical missions in Haiti. Most are scheduled to return to the U.S. in September. The New Horizons program began in the 1980s to conduct joint and combined humanitarian exercises that Southcom holds annually in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a Defense Department bloggers roundtable this week (July 13), Army Col. Michael Borrel, the task force commander, explained that engineers are constructing or re-building four schools while medical personnel have treated more than 20,000 Haitian patients.
But most of that is going on in the Gonaives area, outside the quake damage zone. Borrel, who is in the Louisiana National Guard, as are most of the Army personnel, said the Haitian government had requested assistance in Gonaives – about 90 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince – where thousands of earthquake refugees have strained local government services, including an additional 20,000 school children.
Air Force Col. Thomas Steinbrunner, commander of the most recent medical operation – a 10-day medical readiness and training exercise mission in the northern town of Ennery – says specialists in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and women’s health, as well as dentists and optometrists are part of the 30-person team, most of them from the 56th Medical Group at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Army Maj. Chuck Hudson, in charge of the engineering missions, says reinforced concrete design along with a steel framed-corrugated steel roof should make the school buildings more resistant to hurricanes. Army engineers and Navy Seabees are also making electrical and water supply improvements at the four sites.
While the efforts of U.S. military have been heroic in the aftermath of the quake – reopening the Port-au-Prince airport and port, removing rubble, tending the injured, building refugee camps and supplying food and water – the current mission (as crucial as it is for local residents) seems like a drop in the bucket when the scale of the quake’s devastation is considered: more than 200,000 people were killed, thousands more were injured. More than 1 million Haitians remain homeless, living in tent cities or makeshift shacks. Compounding the problem, all but one of the government buildings in the capital were destroyed and 20 percent of the government’s workers were killed, according to CBS News.
The lack of progress in moving Haiti forward appears to be a combination of Haitian government bureaucracy – most rubble is still being removed by hand – and a lack of transparency and accountability by some relief groups, says NPR. Also most of the nations that promised aid to Haiti have not fully delivered on their commitment, and most charities and aid groups have spent less than half of what they took in for Haitian relief in donations, according to a chart compiled by NPR.
On the plus-side, says Haitian President Rene Preval, there have been no large outbreaks of disease or violence since the quake, but many Haitians remain dissatisfied — and in need.
Keep on Truckin’
They say an army moves on its stomach, but it needs all sorts of things – fuel, ammunition, communications equipment – besides food to keep on going.
Mail, for instance.
U.S. Army Major Coleen Carr says the military has a goal to get troops’ mail from the U.S. to Afghanistan or Iraq within seven to 10 days. “We couldn’t survive without strategic airlift,” says Carr, a human resources planner at the Theater Sustainment Command level.
In fact, to get the mail out to the troops at forward operating bases and other remote locations, “we actually have our own small feet of helicopters that only do mail airlift in Afghanistan,” she says.
Mail isn’t the only thing that moves by air in Afghanistan, says Army Maj. Yon Kimble, a logistics expert and former deputy director of logistics for Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. The biggest challenge was the road infrastructure there because “there is really hardly any,” she told an Army bloggers roundtable recently. The weather especially in winter exacerbates the problem making it hard to move goods during the snowy months. “So our time to conduct any type of mission is pretty limited, she says. While airlift can take up the slack in the winter months, weather poses yet another problem for flying, especially to Special Operations troops like Army Rangers and Navy SEALs posted in remote locations.
Carr and Kimble were among six field grade or intermediate officers attending the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas who spoke with the bloggers. They included five Army majors and one Navy lieutenant commander. The CGSC is a graduate school for mid-grade officers (Army, Air Force and Marine Corps majors and Navy and Coast Guard lieutenant commanders).
The naval officer, Lt. Cmdr. David Collis – also assigned to logistics work for Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan – said “everybody would prefer to move things by air because its faster and [with] a lot less issues than on the ground.”
Those issues included providing security to truck convoys – sometimes from local police or military. Because Afghanistan is a land-locked country, everything has to be trucked in over often dangerous roads from Pakistan, like the one that runs through the wild and wooly Federally Administered Tribal Areas – a Taliban stronghold.
After dealing with the threat of attack in Pakistan, Afghanistan’s poor quality roads present additional challenges – especially in winter.
In Iraq, Collis said, pilferage was a problem until the U.S. military started providing security to supply truck convoys. Once when transporting containerized housing units from one base to another, Collis said the Iraqi drivers were stopped at a checkpoint where Iraqi police had broken into the trucks and were handing out beds and furniture to “local Iraqis that were selling them. It was kind of like a free-for-all auction.” Collis said U.S. troops broke up the impromptu bazaar and started escorting the convoys of Iraqi trucks after that. The Iraqi truck drivers asked the Special Operations troops to escort them home, too, so “they didn’t have to stop at the checkpoints, and they didn’t get shaken down” by Iraqi police.
The six staff college students said the take-away from their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan varied. For some it was learning the importance of cooperating with the other services, or learned to adapt to the very different culture and infrastructure of a combat zone. Major Carr, the human resources expert, said for her the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan came in handy responding to the earthquake in Haiti.
“I know it may sound a little odd,” she says, but the lessons learned in the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan “we were able to put into practice in Haiti, which was a very austere environment.”
Harder Than It Looks
O.K., we’ve all see a movie where the hero hits the ground, rolls, and takes down the bad guys. Well, it seems movie stunt men aren’t the only people who have to practice that tricky maneuver. Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division practice landing falls during a forcible entry exercise at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Pope AFB is adjacent to Fort Bragg, the home of the 82nd as well as U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Forcible entry exercises train the 82nd’s brigades for real-world contingency operations. A large contingent of the 82nd was deployed to Haiti to assist in post-earthquake relief operations — although most walked off planes or ships upon arrival. But forcible entry into a hostile or denied area by parachute assault — within 18 hours of notification — is still the 82nd’s prime mission. The April 26-28 exercise also included a static line parachute drop from C-17 cargo aircraft. For more photos of the exercise – and a look at just how big the inside of the airplane known as the Globemaster is, click on a photo essay here. As always, click on the photo for a larger image.
Army-Navy Divers Repair Haitian Port
When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, a key part of the infrastructure damaged in the capital, Port-au-Prince, was the city’s port facility.
One of the port’s two piers was “a complete loss,” according to U.S. Navy Capt. James Wink, the chief engineer for the U.S. Joint Task Force-Haiti response to the quake. In addition to collapsing the port’s north pier, the earthquake knocked about 350 feet off the south pier, sending it into the water. That left some 800 feet of usable pier – after repairs were made, Wink told a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable recently.
U.S. Army divers from the 544th Engineer Dive Team and Navy divers from Underwater Construction Team 1 assessed the damage and then reinforced damaged sections of the pier. Final repairs were completed in March and the south pier can accommodate a load of up to 30 tons, said Wink, the executive officer of Naval Facilities and Engineering Command, Southwest, based in San Diego, California.
When he arrived in Haiti Jan. 29, Wink said he was almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the devastation after the 7.0-magnitude quake. “The debris management was probably the thing that jumped out at me on that first day,” Wink said, adding: “Before we could do anything else, we had to get the rubble out of the way.”
To illustrate the task, Wink said the rubble constituted 25 million cubic yards of debris, an amount that could fill New Orleans’ sports stadium, the 10-acre, 73,000-seat Louisiana Superdome, five times.
Another problem was getting earth-moving equipment through the snarled traffic of Port-au-Prince, a daunting task even before the earthquake struck. “Port-au-Prince is already a congested area. Getting through on a good day takes a long time. When you have heavy equipment removing rubble and causing detours, it really slows things down,” Wink said.
In addition to Navy Construction Battalions (Seabees) and Army and Air Force engineers, Wink said the humanitarian relief effort is being assisted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) a State Department entity, and the United Nations. Military engineers from Japan, Korea, Italy, Bolivia and Chile are also assisting.
He said reconstruction work is currently focusing on making safe temporary housing for the homeless — internally-displaced persons (IDP). That means improving the infrastructure at IDP camps in the hills around Port-au-Prince to mitigate possible flash-floods and landslides during Haiti’s rainy season.
“And we’re using both the Japanese and Navy Seabees inside some of those camps to work drainage systems, to build reinforcments to some of the walls inside the camp,” Wink said. Later the Seabees will assist the U.N. in building additional IDP camps north of Port-au-Prince.
Wink said the Port-au-Prince pier is now under control of the Haitian government “and there’s no Defense Department involvement in this operation today.” The Haitian government is working with an outside consultant to develop future port plans, including a possible second pier, Wink said. The Defense Department’s Joint Task Force-Haiti is scheduled to end operations at the end of May. But some Seabees will be staying on to participate in Operation New Horizon, an exercise that will include building community centers and schools in Haiti.