23 August 2021
by Ashley Roque
US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) currently has approximately 800 to 1,000 military personnel in Haiti's vicinity conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions after a 7.2-magnitute earthquake struck the island nation on 14 August. Operations range from search-and-rescue (SAR) sorties and airlifting injured survivors to healthcare facilities in Port-au-Prince to helping establish a field hospital closer to the disaster's epicentre.
USSOUTHCOM Commander Admiral Craig Faller spoke with Janes on 22 August about Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti's efforts that so far have included hundreds of ‘missions'.
“What we tried to do was set in motion additional assets [starting on 14 August]. Think helicopters, ships, assessment teams – these are small teams that can go out and understand if a landing strip is capable of handling a C-130 or handling a helicopter – and a command-and-control element,” Adm Faller said.
USSOUTHCOM initially pulled troops and assets from Joint Task Force-Bravo located at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras and sent some of them to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. From there they fly aircraft sorties into Haiti using the Port-au-Prince-Toussaint Louverture International Airport as a ‘forward' location and use ships as refuelling points or a spot for ‘remission'.
“They're bringing folks that need medical care back to Port-au-Prince and then finding available healthcare facilities,” Adm Faller explained. “The issue is not that there isn't adequate health care in Haiti, it's just there's gaps, particularly out in rural areas.”
US Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater helicopter crew members assist a critically injured Haitian citizen on 18 August. (US Coast Guard)
In the intervening week, the United States also deployed more troops to the region including the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship Arlington
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US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) currently has approximately 800 to 1,000 military personnel in Hait...