Cooperation Between SOUTHCOM and Partner Nations Spurred Response to Haiti Earthquake

Cooperation Between SOUTHCOM and Partner Nations Spurred Response to Haiti Earthquake

By Dialogo
February 05, 2015




The international response to the earthquake in Haiti was the subject of the Complex Emergencies and Large Scale Disasters seminar held from January 27-29 at the Inter-American Defense College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

“When a natural disaster occurs, we all work together to put a country back together,” said Rear Admiral Martha Herb, director of IADC, at the start of the three-day seminar.

Military friendships facilitate swift humanitarian response


In response to the terrible losses Haiti suffered in a matter of minutes, the International Community and representatives from 55 countries participating in the United Nations peace keeping mission’s police and military components quickly mobilized to provide aid and prevent additional loss of life.

SOUTHCOM established U.S. Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-Haiti) to spearhead Operation Unified Response in response to the humanitarian crisis and leveraged from existing relationships already built in Haiti to be successful.

“Our personal relationships really affected how we were able to quickly work together in Haiti,” said retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who headed the JTF-Haiti, was deputy commander of SOUTHCOM, and was in Haiti during the earthquake.

“We were able to acknowledge in this case that what we were trying to do was save lives and mitigate suffering among the Haitian people.”

He relied extensively on his friendship with the then Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), retired Brazilian Army Lieutenant General Floriano Peixoto, with whom he had participated in years of cooperative military exchanges between Brazil and the United States.

Both Lt. Gen. Keen and Lt. Gen. Peixoto recalled the international response in Haiti during the seminar, where they led a panel on the response effort.

The importance of friendship among Military officials


Programs like the one at the IADC, the current class of which includes 63 military and security scholars from 14 nations, provide armed forces officials from different countries with opportunities to learn together and build relationships.

“I believe what success we enjoyed in Haiti, at the tactical level and some at the operational level, was really because of venues like this, because of relationships that are developed in classrooms like this,” Lt. Gen. Keen said.

Speaking to IADC students and guests, Lt. Gen. Peixoto said the rules for military personnel operating on a relief mission in a foreign country are very clear and based on international accords. However, the urgency of the situation called for flexibility to speed up the flow of relief efforts to Haitian quake survivors.

“Although there was an agreement signed by the United States ambassador and the head of the mission, we didn’t think about that too much,” Lt. Gen. Peixoto said. “The partnership we established was structured on our long-time friendship.”

Managing the arrival of large quantities of relief supplies and workers, and matching it with the flood of requests for assistance, was a major challenge.

“There was no coordination in the first two weeks, and we Military [personnel] were so upset.”

Military coordination of relief activities


To bring order to the chaos, Lt. Gen. Peixoto and his staff developed a central hub to channel all relief activities, which included staff from each major partner agency. The structure was called the Joint Operations Tasking Center and became a model that U.N. officials sought to replicate for other major responses in other parts of the world.

“We developed capabilities that can be used for future quakes and other events,” Lt. Gen. Peixoto said. “It was a great opportunity to show that two different entities could be put together and give the world a great example of partnership.”

As the head of U.S. forces under JTF-Haiti, Lt. Gen. Keen faced his own challenges in balancing responsibilities to two different civilian authorities – the U.S. ambassador in Haiti, and the head of the nation’s chief relief agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“My question to them was: what authority do I have to interface with Haitian locals?” Lt. Gen. Keen said.

The response helped guide Lt. Gen. Keen’s actions in a way that would respect political sensibilities in certain cases, while granting him more autonomy in other cases, to speed relief efforts to those most in need.

Both Military officers recognized that, while their orders often came from civilian authorities above them, the needs and requests of the Haitian people came first.

“We did not prescribe anything without getting Haitian input,” Lt. Gen. Peixoto said.

During the seminar, several IADC students from Haiti listened closely to the discussion on lessons from the international response and ways to improve efforts in the future.

Marc Justin, senior commissioner with Haiti’s National Police, said he feels the Caribbean nation is better prepared now to handle a natural disaster than it was in 2010, in part thanks to cooperation with foreign partners, like SOUTHCOM.

“We have groups everywhere to train people,” Justin said. “With foreign partners, we need that SOUTHCOM help in terms of practice and exercise.”

But he noted Haiti’s various security forces still face an uphill climb to organize internally and conduct joint training exercises needed to prove the nation’s operational readiness.

“If we never train together, and we are not ready, it will be a fiasco,” Justin said.

Haitian police forces played a key role responding to the earthquake by helping international Military personnel assess the situation, Lt. Gen. Keen said.

He especially praised the efforts of the police chief in the Cité Soleil area, who lost dozens of officers in the quake.

“In fact my wife and three children were killed in the earthquake,” the police chief told Lt. Gen. Keen.

Natural disasters affect an entire population, including members of the very security forces who are needed for the recovery effort.

“It takes leadership to step forward,” Lt. Gen. Keen said. “In Haiti it wasn’t about getting credit for anything that was being done, it was about how we work together to make a difference.”

Lt. Gen. Keen currently serves as Associate Dean of Leadership Development for Emory University's Goizueta School of Business in Atlanta, Georgia.

Lt. Gen. Peixoto is a special consultant for the UN in its High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and Special Political Missions.
We want the newspaper the way it was before. Not like it is today I support them helping Anti to fix the houses damaged by the earthquake Crime doesn't pay. It's very sad to see families destroyed because of crime. Congratulations, a very good way to show how our Armed Forces perform to benefit the community and the development of the population all over Latin America. I would like to have this information always. Excellent website thank you I think this is very good
The international response to the earthquake in Haiti was the subject of the Complex Emergencies and Large Scale Disasters seminar held from January 27-29 at the Inter-American Defense College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.
“When a natural disaster occurs, we all work together to put a country back together,” said Rear Admiral Martha Herb, director of IADC, at the start of the three-day seminar.
Military friendships facilitate swift humanitarian response

In response to the terrible losses Haiti suffered in a matter of minutes, the International Community and representatives from 55 countries participating in the United Nations peace keeping mission’s police and military components quickly mobilized to provide aid and prevent additional loss of life.
SOUTHCOM established U.S. Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-Haiti) to spearhead Operation Unified Response in response to the humanitarian crisis and leveraged from existing relationships already built in Haiti to be successful.
“Our personal relationships really affected how we were able to quickly work together in Haiti,” said retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who headed the JTF-Haiti, was deputy commander of SOUTHCOM, and was in Haiti during the earthquake.
“We were able to acknowledge in this case that what we were trying to do was save lives and mitigate suffering among the Haitian people.”
He relied extensively on his friendship with the then Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), retired Brazilian Army Lieutenant General Floriano Peixoto, with whom he had participated in years of cooperative military exchanges between Brazil and the United States.
Both Lt. Gen. Keen and Lt. Gen. Peixoto recalled the international response in Haiti during the seminar, where they led a panel on the response effort.
The importance of friendship among Military officials

Programs like the one at the IADC, the current class of which includes 63 military and security scholars from 14 nations, provide armed forces officials from different countries with opportunities to learn together and build relationships.
“I believe what success we enjoyed in Haiti, at the tactical level and some at the operational level, was really because of venues like this, because of relationships that are developed in classrooms like this,” Lt. Gen. Keen said.
Speaking to IADC students and guests, Lt. Gen. Peixoto said the rules for military personnel operating on a relief mission in a foreign country are very clear and based on international accords. However, the urgency of the situation called for flexibility to speed up the flow of relief efforts to Haitian quake survivors.
“Although there was an agreement signed by the United States ambassador and the head of the mission, we didn’t think about that too much,” Lt. Gen. Peixoto said. “The partnership we established was structured on our long-time friendship.”
Managing the arrival of large quantities of relief supplies and workers, and matching it with the flood of requests for assistance, was a major challenge.
“There was no coordination in the first two weeks, and we Military [personnel] were so upset.”
Military coordination of relief activities

To bring order to the chaos, Lt. Gen. Peixoto and his staff developed a central hub to channel all relief activities, which included staff from each major partner agency. The structure was called the Joint Operations Tasking Center and became a model that U.N. officials sought to replicate for other major responses in other parts of the world.
“We developed capabilities that can be used for future quakes and other events,” Lt. Gen. Peixoto said. “It was a great opportunity to show that two different entities could be put together and give the world a great example of partnership.”
As the head of U.S. forces under JTF-Haiti, Lt. Gen. Keen faced his own challenges in balancing responsibilities to two different civilian authorities – the U.S. ambassador in Haiti, and the head of the nation’s chief relief agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“My question to them was: what authority do I have to interface with Haitian locals?” Lt. Gen. Keen said.
The response helped guide Lt. Gen. Keen’s actions in a way that would respect political sensibilities in certain cases, while granting him more autonomy in other cases, to speed relief efforts to those most in need.
Both Military officers recognized that, while their orders often came from civilian authorities above them, the needs and requests of the Haitian people came first.
“We did not prescribe anything without getting Haitian input,” Lt. Gen. Peixoto said.
During the seminar, several IADC students from Haiti listened closely to the discussion on lessons from the international response and ways to improve efforts in the future.
Marc Justin, senior commissioner with Haiti’s National Police, said he feels the Caribbean nation is better prepared now to handle a natural disaster than it was in 2010, in part thanks to cooperation with foreign partners, like SOUTHCOM.
“We have groups everywhere to train people,” Justin said. “With foreign partners, we need that SOUTHCOM help in terms of practice and exercise.”
But he noted Haiti’s various security forces still face an uphill climb to organize internally and conduct joint training exercises needed to prove the nation’s operational readiness.
“If we never train together, and we are not ready, it will be a fiasco,” Justin said.
Haitian police forces played a key role responding to the earthquake by helping international Military personnel assess the situation, Lt. Gen. Keen said.
He especially praised the efforts of the police chief in the Cité Soleil area, who lost dozens of officers in the quake.
“In fact my wife and three children were killed in the earthquake,” the police chief told Lt. Gen. Keen.
Natural disasters affect an entire population, including members of the very security forces who are needed for the recovery effort.
“It takes leadership to step forward,” Lt. Gen. Keen said. “In Haiti it wasn’t about getting credit for anything that was being done, it was about how we work together to make a difference.”
Lt. Gen. Keen currently serves as Associate Dean of Leadership Development for Emory University's Goizueta School of Business in Atlanta, Georgia.
Lt. Gen. Peixoto is a special consultant for the UN in its High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and Special Political Missions.
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