An important job of the Mexican Defense Department (SEDENA, in Spanish) is coming to the aid of other countries hit by natural disasters. Procedures for Plan DNIII-E are designed for both domestic and international operations to ensure the safety of people facing unexpected dangerous events.
“Humanitarian aid is provided under a coordination and cooperation scheme with the authorities of the affected sister nation,” said Army Major Juan Manuel Corral Hernández, chief of the Risk Management Group under the Civil Protection subsection of SEDENA’s general staff. “Either the Mexican government offers the support, or the president of the affected nation requests it directly from our country,” he told Diálogo.
The natural disaster relief plan in support of civilians is connected to the Mexican National Civil Protection System. The plan sets general guidelines and arranges for the deployment of Mexican Army and Air Force personnel and assets for timely help to populations affected by a disaster.
“We contributed with search, rescue, and assistance tasks, debris removal, helped civil authorities, managed shelters, reestablished lines of communication, evacuations, and medical aid,” Major Gabriel Medina Zamora, Mexican Air Force (FAM, in Spanish) pilot, told Diálogo. “Mexico always responds immediately with humanitarian aid to our sister nations.”
Plan DNIII-E, in effect since 1996, has three phases: prevention, aid, and recovery. Its relief force is made up of two components: the land component, comprising engineers, specialized personnel, and state-of-the-art heavy machinery; and the air component, comprising fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
“To date [May 2018], our specialized personnel lent support on 42 occasions in 20 different countries,” said Maj. Corral. “The Mexican government sends response teams from the Navy, Army, FAM, Federal Police and Civil Protection, along with equipment to provide support to countries hit with disasters, particularly earthquakes and floods.”
Give and take
The Mexican Armed Forces are always ready to help partner nations or any country in need. “We don't pay attention to a person's nationality; if requested, they are provided the help we can provide,” said Maj. Medina. “We do it with pleasure through the procedures of Plan DNIII-E, in coordination with the armed forces and other authorities of affected nations.”
Mexico deployed its civilian and military personnel on humanitarian aid missions after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile in 2010. It was also there after the tsunamis in Indonesia in 2004 and Japan in 2011, Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998, as well as during the recent forest fire in Nicaragua in April 2018.
On that occasion, Mexico sent a FAM helicopter with two Bambi Buckets with a 2,000-liter water capacity, along with their respective crews, at the request of the Nicaraguan government. The teams supported the extinguishing work in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, where a fire destroyed more than 5,000 hectares of forest.
Mexico also showed its solidarity to the Ecuadorean people. In 2017, Mexico sent a Boeing 727 belonging to the Federal Police, along with a contingent of Federal Police officers, troops from the Army, FAM, and the Navy, and personnel from the Mexican Red Cross and Civil Protection. The teams supported victims of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the Andean nation on April 16th.
“Every aid mission is a new experience; it's difficult to describe because you see people suffering a lot. What matters is to show solidarity to those who need it at times when your strength is put to the test,” Senior Airman Rafael Cisneros, a FAM pilot, told Diálogo. He participated in the search and rescue efforts in Ecuador after the 2017 earthquake and performed reconnaissance work and damage assessments.
The international community also showed solidarity with Mexico after the earthquakes in September 2017. More than 20 partner nations assisted in rescue work with specialized professional units and heavy equipment. Military and commercial airplanes contributed with transport so equipment and support could be used promptly. “Giving and receiving is a show of solidarity,” said Maj. Medina.
“Since natural phenomena don't respect borders, we have to join forces and be prepared,” said Senior Airman Cisneros. The number of natural disasters greatly increased over the past decade. According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, each disaster puts the lives of millions of civilians in danger.
The training and education allow for standardization of tasks so that national and international institutions can operate efficiently and jointly. “Those of us who participate in humanitarian aid missions operate under international standards,” Senior Airman Mario Alberto Rosas García, a member of FAM’s Human Rescue Team, told Diálogo. “Military units that help during natural disasters are certified. They are in excellent physical condition and know how to work under pressure as a team.”
“Mexico trained, organized, and prepared personnel and armed forces to provide assistance to the civilian population, whether domestically or abroad,” Maj. Corral concluded. “Often, officers from other countries are trained in the application of Plan DNIII-E and in the Civilian Protection Course at the Mexican Army College.”