Relationships Matter Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief in Haiti

By Keen, P. K. (Ken; Neto, Floriano Peixoto Vieira et al. | Military Review, May/June 2010 | Go to article overview

Relationships Matter Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief in Haiti


Keen, P. K. (Ken, Neto, Floriano Peixoto Vieira, Nolan, Charles W., Kim, Jennifer L., Alt, Joseph, Military Review


AT 16:53 LOCAL time on 12 January 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing over 230,000 people, injuring thousands of others, and leaving over a million people homeless.1 The earthquake caused major damage to the capital and other cities in the region and severely damaged or destroyed notable landmarks, including the presidential palace and the Port-au-Prince cathedral. The temblor destroyed 14 of the 16 government ministries, killing numerous government employees. The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) collapsed, killing 101 UN workers, including Head of Mission Hédi Annabi from Tunisia and his principal deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa from Brazil.2 In less than a minute, life on the small island of Haiti drastically changed.

The earthquake prompted offers to send aid and assistance in various forms from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private foundations.The need for manpower on the ground to orchestrate the relief effort brought together military forces from the world over, to include the United States, which stood up Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-H). The combined effort of MINUSTAH and JTF-H in providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Haiti following the earthquake demonstrates the importance of developing strong relationships, both institutional and personal, with partner nation armies.

U.S. and Partner Nation Militaries: A History of Cooperation

Eighteen contributing nations make up the military component of the UN mission in Haiti.3 These nations include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, India, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, the United States, and Uruguay. The United States has a long and distinguished history of partnership and cooperation conducting full spectrum operations with various partner nations. Three notable examples include offensive operations during the Italian Campaign in World War II, humanitarian assistance during the 1965 civil war in the Dominican Republic, and peacekeeping operations in Ecuador and Peru in 1995.

Brazil was the only South American country to send troops to fight in World War II. They formed a 25,000-man Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) made up of Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel led by General Mascarenhas de Moraes. The FEB 's 1 st Division, under General Zenóbio da Costa, consisted of three regimental combat teams that fought alongside the U.S. Fifth Army under the command of Lieutenant General Mark Clark in the Italian Campaign. The highlight of Brazil-U.S. cooperation came in February 1945 when Brazil's 1st Division and the U.S. 10th Mountain Division fought sideby-side in the Battle of Monte Castelo against the German Army under extremely adverse winter conditions. The 10th Mountain Division, supported by Brazilian artillery and the FEB's 1st Fighter Squadron, captured German defenses surrounding Monte Castelo, allowing the Brazil 1st Division to attack the German forces on higher ground and successfully take control of Monte Castelo itself. Later in the campaign, the FEB also distinguished itself by capturing over 20,000 German and Italian prisoners to help end hostilities in Italy. By the end of the war, over 900 FEB soldiers had paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.4

The 1965 civil war in the Dominican Republic led to another cooperative effort between the United States and several Latin American countries. The XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters was activated on 26 April 1965 and three battalions from the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, deployed on 30 April and landed at San Isidro Airfield. After intense fighting that day, a cease-fire was established and the paratroopers soon transitioned to peacekeeping and stabilization efforts distributing food, water, and medicine to the residents of San Isidro. A fourth battalion from the 82d's 1st Brigade joined the other three on 3 May. …

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