HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, FL, UNITED STATES
Story by Maj. Gregory McElwain
HOMESTEAD RESERVE AIR BASE, Fla. – The service members of Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-Haiti) established by Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) have completed their mission of supporting United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HA/DR) in Haiti. They were successful delivering over 570,000 pounds of humanitarian aid to the remote regions affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Aug. 14, 2021.
Dr. Jerry Chandler of the Haitian Directorate of Civil Protection (DPC) said, “75,000 people were reached with emergency food and aid.” This does not count the relief items including medical kits, plastic sheets, shelter repair kits, blankets, buckets, water containers, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets transported from USAID’s warehouses to the remote areas hit by the quake.
The lead federal agency for U.S. foreign disaster assistance efforts after a natural disaster is USAID, yet the dynamic and flexible nature of Special Operations was demonstrated by SOCSOUTH’s leadership of JTF-Haiti throughout their mission to bring support and aid to the people of Haiti.
At the direction of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), SOCSOUTH responded rapidly to the emerging crisis by sending the SOUTHCOM Situational Assessment Team (SSAT) to Haiti. The SSAT is a quick-reaction team comprised of experts that provided the Combatant Commander, Adm. Craig Faller, an assessment of conditions on the ground, which includes recommendations to request Department of Defense capabilities required to help the people of Haiti during this disaster response.
“The SSAT is a small group of professionals, able to assess the situation and find new ways to accomplish the mission prior to availability of DoD resources,” said Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the SOCSOUTH and JTF-Haiti Commander. “This lead team allowed us to set the conditions for follow-on elements to execute the mission.”
As all Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOC), SOCSOUTH is subordinate to both United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and a designated Global Combatant Command. SOCSOUTH is subordinate to SOUTHCOM.
In coordination with SOUTHCOM, SOCSOUTH responds rapidly to emerging crises, to include natural disasters, in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility, which includes 31 countries and 16 areas of special sovereignty in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. This recent mission gives SOUTHCOM and SOCSOUTH a new perspective on HA/DR and other missions which allow for future opportunities and engagements through SOCSOUTH’s unique regional understanding and placement.
SOCOM’s mission consists of developing and employing fully capable Special Operation forces to conduct complicated operations with very short notice.
SOUTHCOM’s mission has strengthening partnerships and building the team as two of its key tenants.
JTF-Haiti exemplified both SOCOM and SOUTHCOM’s mission statement as it moved into action on Aug. 15, 2021, at the direction of Adm. Faller, to plan and coordinate humanitarian assistance/ disaster response operations and to mitigate the impact of this natural disaster.
“Orchestrating and directing the complex logistics at Port-au-Prince International Airport demanded the ability to coordinate among various U.S. Government agencies, the U.S. Embassy, and Haitian national leadership,” said Faller, “JTF-Haiti with a small core command and control team from SOCSOUTH with augmentation from the joint team, formed an agile, highly effective team.”
This type of liaison work is a key tenant of the mission of SOCOM. Conducting civil affairs and foreign humanitarian assistance begins with organizing and synchronizing separate entities for a common goal.
“This is a task that SOCSOUTH is trained and prepared for,” said Davids. “Even though this is the first time that a TSOC led a joint task force for Humanitarian Assistance, we are prepared to maneuver through the environment and create the relationships needed to be successful and conduct an elegant transition.”
Reacting quickly and professionally builds long lasting partnerships with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. SOCSOUTH constantly works with Partner Nations during exercises that promote military-to-military relationships, planning cooperation, and regional security. The service members and staff at SOCSOUTH work to improve time-sensitive crisis action planning and joint integration with partner nations and governmental agencies.
“SOCSOUTH functioned like a 9-1-1 force, or a quick reaction force, a small, maneuverable, and adaptive team,” Davids said. “We are used to operating in an austere environment requiring conventional and non-conventional support from the Department of Defense.”
Relationships built through training and shared relief efforts ensure that the U.S. is the partner of choice in the hemisphere.