After nearly a month of supporting foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (FHA/DR) operations under authorities granted by the U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense, at the request of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) concluded immediate response missions for hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America on December 2, 2020.
USAID initially requested the unique capabilities of SOUTHCOM to transport relief supplies to hard-to-reach areas. Now that weather conditions have improved and floodwaters are receding, roads are becoming passable and commercial transportation services are resuming. The operations supported by the U.S. military will now transition to local authorities, the United Nations, and nongovernmental organizations that are increasingly able to reach communities previously cut off by storm damage.
In addition, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) will continue to lead the U.S. government’s humanitarian response efforts, working in close coordination with local authorities and multiple partners on the ground to assess the needs of affected people and help coordinate relief efforts.
“Support from JTF-Bravo was absolutely critical in these first weeks of the response,” said USAID’s DART Leader Tim Callaghan. “Working together, USAID and the U.S. military were able to deliver relief supplies to communities who urgently needed the assistance that nobody else was able to reach. We’re grateful for the strong partnership and thank all of the members of JTF-Bravo and SOUTHCOM for the support.”
During the course of JTF-Bravo’s authorities to conduct FHA/DR missions, the command supported 295 missions, providing medical and casualty evacuations for people in need of urgent care. JTF-Bravo’s assets rescued 810 citizens, transported 163 rescue and aid workers, and nearly 350,000 pounds of food, water, hygiene kits, and other life-saving aid. Additionally, JTF-Bravo transported nearly 564,000 pounds of relief supplies in support of USAID-led humanitarian response to the region.
“JTF-Bravo has been working non-stop since early November, as part of a team effort,” said U.S. Army Colonel John D. Litchfield, JTF-Bravo commander. “We’ve worked closely with our Central American partners throughout, and it’s been inspiring to see our friends and allies joining us to help people in their time of need.”
JTF-Bravo worked closely throughout the disaster relief efforts with USAID, the U.S. embassies in Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, and members and assets from SOUTHCOM, U.S. Army South, U.S. Naval Forces South, U.S. Air Forces South, U.S. Special Operations Command South, the U.S. Coast Guard, the United Kingdom Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and the French Navy.
During the early, critical stages of disaster relief operations, the unique military capabilities fielded by JTF-Bravo enabled the United States to assist its partners in the region with immediate, life-saving efforts. Within an hour of receiving requests for support from the Honduran government, JTF-Bravo personnel were flying immediate life-saving missions.
As friends and neighbors to Central America, JTF-Bravo has stood by its partners for nearly 40 years and continues to do so today. The task force stands ready to respond and assist should the need arise again.