Posts tagged ‘Haiti’

SHAKO: The Art of Flying, Marine Corps-Style

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.

Close Air Suport-Korea by Master Sgt. John DeGrasse USMC. Copyright, National Museum of the Marines Corps

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.

Aviators Debriefing by Maj. Alex Raymond USMCR. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Copyright, National Museum of the Marine Corps

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.

Fly Marines exhibit. Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

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.”

1920 poster by Howard Chandler Christy Copyright, National Museum of the Marine Corps

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.


January 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 1, 2011)

Di ‘ahh’, tanpri

Defense Dept. photo by Fred W. Baker III

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.

July 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 6, 2011)

Hospital Ship Security

Defense Dept. photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric C. Tretter

Now here’s a Military Occupational Speciality we weren’t expecting, armed deck security manning a machine gun on a U.S. Navy hospital ship.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jerris Bradley stands watch aboard the USNS Comfort as the hospital ship transits the Panama Canal en route to Peru. The Comfort, which left its homeport in Baltimore March 17, is on a nine-nation, five-month medical and humanitarian mission, Continuing Promise 2011, to Latin America and the Caribbean Basin.

In addition to 480 Navy medical and dental professionals, the Comfort is carrying 12 Air Force and Navy linguists to serve as interpreters. There are also 71 civil service mariners (U.S. Merchant Marine) who will operate and navigate the ship, provide water and electricity to the shipboard hospital and, when necessary, transport patients between the Comfort and shore in small boats.

Also aboard the Comfort are Navy Seabees (construction battalions) , who will assist school building projects in the countries visited.

There are also volunteers from 30 non-governmental organizations ranging from Project Hope and Samaritan’s Feet (which provides shoes to people who can’t afford them) to Des Moines University (a health sciences/medical school in Iowa) and World Vets (as in veterinarians).

According to the Navy, the exchange of information with partnering nations “is integral to building disaster relief preparedness and supporting maritime security in the region.

Continuing Promise 2001, which is conducted by U.S. Southern Command, will take the Comfort to selected ports in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Peru.

Click here for more images of the Comfort’s mission in Peru and here for Jamaica, the first stop in the five-month mission.

May 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm 2 comments

NEWS: Haiti and Afghanistan

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.

Institute for the Study of War map

December 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: India Relations, Training Police

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.

October 22, 2010 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

HAITI: A Drop in the Bucket (Updated 7/15/10)

Military Mission Shrinking in Haiti (Adds background)

Louisiana National Guard Soldiers with the 1020th Engineer Company, began pouring concrete for the foundation of a school. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Jessica M. Lopez)

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.

July 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm Leave a comment


Army-Navy Divers Repair Haitian Port

U.S. Navy Diver 1st Class John Nea inspects a damaged pier Jan. 25, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Defense Dept. photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier)

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.

Army Staff Sgt. William D'Angelo and Navy Builder 2nd Class Andrej Paskevic, drill guide holes into a damaged section of a pier at the port in Port-au-Prince, Feb. 6. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier)

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.

Army Specialist Leslie Shiltz (center), Navy Chief Equipment Operator Steve Eckroth (right), and Staff Sgt. Micah Sherrod, wrap wire around adjoining pieces of reinforcement bar used to strengthen sections of pier in Port-au-Prince. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier)

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.

Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier, who took the photos used in this blog, post is part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, Detachment Combat Camera, attached to salvage ship USNS Grasp. (Navy photo by Logistics Specialist 1st Class Kelly Chastain)

April 19, 2010 at 11:47 am 2 comments

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