U.S. Transportation Command commander Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost and U.S. Southern Command commander Army Gen. Laura Richardson yesterday signed a charter for a regional "Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Logistics Handbook for the Western Hemisphere."
Both commanders said the handbook will help multinational responders improve readiness in a much more timely manner that will result in more lives saved during crises such as humanitarian or natural disasters.
The two leaders spoke yesterday during an interview with defense.gov and the "Miami Today" newspaper.
The signing took place during the Senior Leader Logistics Symposium at Southcom's headquarters in Miami, Florida, which brought together senior U.S. military leaders and representatives from 14 partner nations to discuss improving logistics cooperation and interoperability for exercises, operations and disaster relief efforts in the Western Hemisphere.
The importance of having partners in Latin America and the Caribbean is important to national and regional security, which is known as integrated deterrence, Defense Department combatant command commanders said.
"Integrated deterrence is what we need to be focused on as combatant commanders. Our allies and partners are so important to that because they bring all of their countries' capabilities — and I call it huge enablers to the fight or to the mission. It's all part of the integrated deterrence, the joint force, Transcom and Southcom working together. I can't get anywhere without Transcom," Richardson said.
"The handbook is a boon for us, because it allows us to work directly with the allies and partners here and to standardize processes and procedures, and information sharing so that we can make the best possible use of the capacity and access around this region and so we can all achieve our mutual objectives making us stronger together," Richardson said.
The handbook will expedite transportation throughout the hemisphere, which is good for all nations, Van Ovost said. It also will be useful for disaster assistance exercises that Transcom will participate in with partner nations.
Transcom is critical for Southcom's ability to aid partner nations in the region because they have the requisite airlift and sealift, Richardson said. Transcom also has the ability to open a port or an airfield if existing ports or airfields have sustained damage.
Much of this aid that Transcom moves has been humanitarian, Richardson noted.
For instance, there are frequent earthquakes in the region, like in Haiti last year, as well as hurricanes like Iota, which devastated Central America in 2020. The U.S. supplies disaster relief to include rescue and recovery, as well as medical supplies and food, Richardson said.
"It's not just about the U.S.," Van Ovost said, referring to assistance among partner nations. "It's also about the entire team that comes together, no matter how big or how small. It shows that unity of effort."
Van Ovost also mentioned meddling in the hemisphere by bad actors, including China and Russia.
"In today's environment, the neighbors of this hemisphere and our friends abroad, must continue to renew our commitment to uphold our shared values. The rise of authoritarian regimes and criminal organizations around the world seek to erode the foundation of our democracies and our democratic ideals. And they fracture the bonds between our governments in hopes of furthering their own aims," she said.
"But what they don't realize is that our bonds are founded on the recognition of human rights, national sovereignty and the ideals of democracy. These relationships that we have forged with each other, come through the building of trust and mutual respect, and they are not as fragile as those others may think," Van Ovost said.