U.S. Military Response to Hurricane Matthew Sets the Tone for Successful Planning and Coordination

SOUTHCOM’s humanitarian assistance arrived to Haiti in less than 12 hours.
CDR Ted Kim, LCDR Jeremy Greenwood, CDR Timothy Sommella* | 2 November 2016

Rapid Response

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis crewmembers assist the Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines, and Red Cross members load supplies for the United Nations World Food Programme at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

While Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, was barreling toward Haiti, a small team of U.S. Coast Guard officers was hunkered down in a makeshift command center at a house in Port-au-Prince. Hurricane Matthew became the most destructive storm to hit Haiti in more than 50 years, and the planning and coordination that took place in that makeshift command center set the tone for the U.S. military response.

Five Coast Guard cutter crews and more than six Coast Guard aircrews provided the first U.S. military response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, which was coordinated and shaped under the leadership of three Coast Guard officers – Cmdr. Ted Kim, Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Greenwood, and Cmdr. Timothy Sommella.

Less than 12 hours after Hurricane Matthew passed, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew from Air Station Miami was the first U.S. military asset to arrive on scene. At the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the aircrew carried U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Peter F. Mulrean, provisional Haitian President Jocelerme Privert, and a team of USAID disaster-response experts on an initial overflight assessment of the devastation Hurricane Matthew left behind. The next day, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Clearwater provided a similar overflight for U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Cedric Pringle, commander of Joint Task Force Matthew (JTF-M).

From left to right: CDR Ted Kim, LCDR Jeremy Greenwood, CDR Timothy Sommella. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew also facilitated a logistically challenging transport to get the provisional president of Haiti and the U.S. ambassador on the ground in Jeremie – one of the worst hit cities in Haiti. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew transferred the two VIPs and the U.S. Coast Guard liaison officer to the cutter before being taken by small boat to a damaged pier in Jeremie.

The U.S. military response from U.S. Southern Command grew to more than 20 aircraft, 450 Department of Defense personnel, and two amphibious naval ships carrying 2,600 additional personnel and supplies. JTF-M facilitated the delivery of more than 272 metric tons of food, shelter, and medical supplies and transported 150 relief personnel to cut-off communities in Haiti. The U.S. Coast Guard team proved integral to the formation and support of the operation, liaising with local Haitian government officials, providing critical logistics support, and serving as a conduit between the joint task force and the U.S. Embassy.

*U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Greenwood, Coast Guard Liaison Officer in Haiti; U.S. Coast Guard Commander Ted Kim, Senior Defense Officer/Defense Attaché in Haiti; and U.S. Coast Guard Commander Timothy Sommella, JTF-Matthew-U.S. Coast Guard Liaison Officer.

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