A few days ago, in “Haiti: The U.S, Military Steps Up to the Plate” and in subsequent updates, I highlighted and commended the initial relief efforts by our military in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.
In this one, I commented on, and hopefully debunked, preposterous allegations by French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and a few others that the U.S. was “invading” Haiti.
It is now time to provide an update on the progress of our military “invasion” of Haiti.
The following are excerpts from articles about some of these efforts that have appeared in various publications during the past 48 hours.
USA Today reports that “The flight deck of the hospital ship Comfort rumbled with takeoffs and landings Wednesday as a steady stream of helicopters shuttled sick and injured people from the Haitian quake to doctors below.” The Comfort arrived Tuesday and has been functioning “ much like a seasoned big-city trauma center. The crew moved about 83 patients on board; helicopters flew 20 to 30 missions.”
Not a typical invasion fleet.
The Marine Corps Times reports that “The Nassau Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is being diverted from its scheduled deployment to the Middle East and is instead heading to Haiti for relief operations.”
It is unclear whether the MV-22 Ospreys would be used, for the first time, in a major humanitarian assistance operation.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Pentagon announced yesterday that “about 4,000 marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, N.C., who were scheduled to leave for Afghanistan this week, will instead steam to Haiti to support humanitarian relief operations.”
The Fayetteville Observer reports on a small yet heartwarming story of how some combat medics with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division provided spontaneous medical treatment to a seriously injured Haitian they encountered: “It really wasn’t in the plan for us to do any treatment, but we had our stuff when we got here, and we saw we were in need,” Staff Sgt. Dennis Williamson said. “So we went ahead and provided treatment.”
Not what your typical invader would do.
The Washington Post reports that “The U.S. has begun preparing tents at Guantanamo Bay for Haitians migrants in case of a mass migration spurred by the earthquake…” and that “The U.S. base in southeastern Cuba is also being used to transport supplies and personnel to the aid effort in Haiti, about 200 miles away.”
The Daily Press reports from aboard the USS Bataan following an aftershock “that sent shudders through the decks shortly after 6 a.m.”:
Then the morning’s excitement gave way to a flurry of activity associated with the massive humanitarian effort from last week’s much more shattering earthquake.
The Bataan launched an MH-60S helicopter to assess damage from the morning, flying over the beachhead it had established Tuesday.
Signs of the Navy’s buildup over the past 24 hours were evident from the sky.
Members of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit launched two helicopters to resupply a U.N. distribution site with water.
Then came the earthquake victims, injured one week ago, ferried onboard by several helicopters. In all, the ship took in 19 patients after getting three Tuesday. Although the hospital ship USNS Comfort has arrived in Haiti, the Bataan will come into play.
The Bataan’s medical facilities are more extensive than that of an aircraft carrier, second only to the hospital ships…
For this mission, the Bataan has taken on extra doctors and corpsmen, who are enlisted sailors trained in first aid and various specialties.
The Bataan medical teams can set broken bones and perform simple surgeries such as appendix removals, as well as exploratory procedures.
Again, not the typical aid given to those being “invaded.”
The New York Times reported Tuesday how U.S. Marines are now providing essential humanitarian assistance to areas outside of Port-au-Prince:
The Marine helicopters began landing just before noon on Tuesday in a cow pasture here in this heavily damaged farming town about nine miles south of Port-au-Prince, kicking up strong winds and drawing crowds of the curious and hopeful.
About 125 Marines eventually landed here and planned to stay about 24 hours to unload initial shipments of water and food. They expected to spend the night camped out in the pasture.
The relief effort was the United States military’s first significant mission outside Port-au-Prince, the devastated capital, where the needs remain daunting.
The Times also comments on how “for some of the Marines, the work in Haiti is deeply personal,” and gives the example of Cpl. Clifford Sajous, 22, of Elmont, N.Y., “who grew up in Port-au-Prince, and some of his family, including his father, brother, a cousin and three young nephews, ages 10, 8 and 7, have been living in the city.” Sadly, none of them had been heard from at the time: “I really wanted to cry,” Sajous said, “because that’s where I grew up. A lot of those places I recognize, and seeing all these people dead and people running out of food and water, that hurts me.”
These don’t sound much like the emotions of an “invader.”
BREAKING NEWS: CNN just reported that U.S. Navy divers, Coast Guard personnel and other “invaders” have just restored and reopened the badly damaged pier at Port-au-Prince. This is an immensely important development as badly needed aid and supplies will now reach the Haitian people much more quickly and in larger quantities.
More updates on the “invasion” later.
Los Angeles Times, January 22:
U.S. military officials in Haiti said Thursday that the use of three additional airfields and the capital’s seaport would boost of the flow of food, water and medical attention to earthquake victims — at least half a million of whom, according to one count, are scattered in more than 400 camps around Port-au-Prince.
Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said the military had begun using two airfields in the neighboring Dominican Republic and one south of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated in the Jan. 12 quake.
U.S. troops have been moving humanitarian cargo from the Port-au-Prince airport and from 20 ships off Haiti’s coast to four central hubs established by the United Nations, Fraser said. From there, supplies are distributed to 100 different points.
The move is aimed at taking some of the burden from the Port-au-Prince airport. Now run by the U.S. military, it is handling 120 to 140 flights a day, but there is a waiting list of 1,400 flights, Fraser said.
USA Today, January 22:
U.S. Marines headed farther into the western villages of Haiti on Thursday to deliver food and water to people who have seen very little as the government announced it would move 400,000 people living in camps to remote areas.
“The Marines are very excited to be here, to deploy and do something meaningful,” said Lt. Col. Gary Keim, the commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 22. “They were just glad to make people smile.”
West of the capital, several hundred Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit have been setting up landing zones for helicopters since the troops’ arrival Wednesday.
Massive CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters landed in pastures with pallets of bottled water.
Warisboring.com, January 21:
The Air Force Reserve has expanded its support infrastructure for Haiti-bound planes at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, added staff to its air-traffic management cells in Arizona and Florida and is currently feeding a steady stream of C-5s, C-17s and C-130s into Port-Au-Prince, supported by KC-10 and KC-135 tankers. The airport’s single runway and ruined infrastructure limits the inflow of materials, so the Air Force has initiated talks with the Dominican Republic and with Canadian forces trying to open a rural Haitian airstrip.
So far, the Air Force has delivered around 2,000 tons of cargo and 2,000 passengers, while returning around 2,000 evacuees to the U.S.
Stars and Stripes, January 22:
The Army hasn’t done an evacuation like this since Normandy. The USNS Comfort is operating at a level like never before.
More than a thousand Haitians most seriously injured in last week’s earthquake are being flown by helicopter to the Navy’s hospital ship for surgery and other desperately needed treatments.
“The number of severely injured greatly exceed any capability of quickly established ground care,” Capt. Richard Sharpe, head surgeon aboard the Comfort, said.
The military was attempting to get at least 100 patients aboard the Comfort by sundown Thursday.
“We are geared up to function at our absolute max,” he said, noting they started taking patients before the ship was even visible off the horizon.
Dripping in sweat from the unrelenting heat and heavy lifting, soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment with the 82nd Airborne Division first carried patients on stretchers from the makeshift tent hospitals to Army ambulances.
Patients were then taken to the lawn of the presidential palace where they were loaded onto helicopters bound for the Comfort.
“We train for evacuations but nothing on this scale,” Lt. Col. Pat Hynes said, noting the planning started Wednesday afternoon and concluded until 3 a.m. He called it the largest Army evacuation effort since World War II.
The ship, in addition to trauma surgeons, has pediatric, orthopedics and plastic surgeons, as well as other specialists.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.