Southcom Officials Provide Haiti Update
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2010 Officials at U.S. Southern Command headquarters here provided a recap last night of the previous 48 hours of developments in the Haiti relief effort.
Southcom is managing the U.S. military aspects of the earthquake-relief mission.
Officials noted that Joint Task Force Haiti had been established to oversee U.S. military relief efforts in Haiti, with Army Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen in command.
As of last night, 4,200 U.S. military personnel were currently supporting task force operations, within Haiti and from Navy and Coast Guard vessels offshore. An additional 6,300 military personnel are scheduled to arrive through the weekend.
Current U.S. military efforts 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.
Overall, 24 helicopters were providing relief to the people of Haiti as of last night, officials said.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan and composed of more than 2,200 Marines is scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Jan. 18 with heavy-lift and earth-moving equipment and additional medical-support capabilities. The amphibious ships USS Carter Hall, USS Fort McHenry, USS Underwood and USS Normandy also are en route to Haiti.
The hospital ship USNS Comfort left Baltimore this morning en route to Haiti, with about 600 medical personnel. It’s projected to arrive in Haitian waters on Jan. 21. Comfort's capabilities include fully equipped operating rooms, a 500-bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CT-scan capability and two oxygen-producing plants. Each ship is equipped with a helicopter deck capable of landing large military helicopters.
An initial company of more than 100 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Haiti on Jan. 14, and 600 additional paratroopers are scheduled to arrive over the next few days to augment U.N. security and assist with search-and-rescue missions.
Since 2005, U.S. Southern Command has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008. During that mission, U.S. military forces from USS Kearsarge and other units airlifted 3.3 million pounds of aid to communities that were devastated by a succession of major storms.
All military efforts are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission.
(From a U.S. Southern Command news release.)