MIAMI (AFNS) -- A team of 14 military personnel assigned to a U.S. Southern Command Situational Awareness Team arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 15, where they will work with U.S. government diplomatic and disaster-assistance personnel assessing the situation in areas impacted by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, Aug. 14.
The team will join officials from the U.S. embassy and a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) deployed to Haiti, Aug. 14, at the direction of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas transported the SSAT team from Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The team’s assessments will be used by USSOUTHCOM mission planners to identify U.S. military capabilities needed and available to support U.S. foreign disaster assistance led by USAID and requested by the government of Haiti.
Additionally, the U.S. Navy is utilizing its Scan Eagle unmanned air system and P-8 Poseidon to provide aerial images of earthquake-devastated areas. The images will be used by experienced disaster relief planners to determine what relief capabilities and supplies are needed immediately and where.
Two UH-60 Black Hawk and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Joint Task Force-Bravo are also en route to Haiti, where they will provide critical airlift support to ongoing relief efforts.
The U.S. military relief mission will join ongoing U.S. Coast Guard support operations in the Caribbean country.
Members with USSOUTHCOM remain in very close contact with its chain of command, the U.S. State Department, and USAID, the lead federal agency for U.S. foreign disaster assistance, and are ready to provide additional support, if asked.
Historically, U.S. military capabilities are needed most in the critical early stages of a disaster relief operation, when fewer resources, capabilities and disaster-response experts are available to help victims and impacted communities. As those disaster-relief missions progress and more experienced experts arrive to aid longer-term recovery and reconstruction, U.S. military capabilities are no longer requested, and roles previously performed by military units and troops are assumed by other, more experienced relief organizations.
In the aftermath of previous disasters, most recently in 2016, after the nation was struck by Hurricane Matthew, USSOUTHCOM has supported USAID-led disaster relief missions in Haiti.
The U.S. Southern Command has also assisted Haiti in preparing for natural disasters with the construction of emergency operations centers, disaster relief warehouses, fire stations and community centers that doubled as shelters. The command has also previously donated search and rescue boats, as well as transport vehicles to Haitian emergency response and civil protection agencies.