Satellite technology plays key role in Haiti relief effort
February 24, 2010
By Kris Osborn
The U.S. Army is leveraging state-of-the-art satellite technology to assist in the delivery of much needed supplies to earthquake-damaged Haiti -- bringing food, water, clothing and medical equipment to Haitians in crisis, service officials said.
Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) -- a division of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA ALT) -- has set up 19 satellite terminals in Haiti, Army officials said.
"This allows comms [communications] to reach back to the U.S. so all the support centers get information and coordinate the arrival of additional people in theater and the movement of materiel into theater so we can do airdrops," said Col. Daniel Hughes, military deputy for PEO EIS.
"A tremendous amount of food was brought in to help and we helped the relief agencies working down there. The more people you have on the ground, the more comms become very critical."
The satellite terminals -- placed on the ground in Haiti -- send voice, video and data back to a communications command center in Maryland, he added.
"Even with the snow [in the U.S.], we have had no break in the communications," Hughes said.
In addition, Army trucks on the ground in Haiti and watercraft near the shores are configured with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracking devices in order to expedite the relief effort, Hughes indicated.
"We can tell where the trucks are, and we have tracking systems of some of the Army watercraft. When we know where the materiel is on the water, we know where to bring supplies," Hughes said. "The GPS tracking system can tell where the craft is."
PEO EIS has also set up a chat-oriented website on Army Knowledge Online (AKO) allowing commanders in Haiti to reach back and communicate with personnel in the U.S.
"AKO exists as an easy place to chat back to the U.S. The AMC [Army Materiel Command] Commander uses it. People can log on to the AKO site and chat with folks that are also on AKO."
"Also, AKO is set up so that if anything happens anywhere else, we can have a Web site up for people to use quickly. The AKO site also has a link to emergency language training," said Hughes.
ASA (ALT) has been working in tandem with AMC to ensure that supplies and information are directed to the appropriate damaged areas.
Along these lines, satellite technology has been crucial to the relief effort on the ground in Haiti, said Col. Steven J. Feldmann, deputy commanding general for Mobilization and Operations, Army Sustainment Command.
"Almost everything that we are doing requires satellite links," said Feldman, speaking via satellite from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
"We run the airport and the seaport. At the airport they have off loaded 2,781 aircraft -- an average of 90 a day -- and we have off-loaded 29 million pounds of humanitarian assistance disaster relief and sustainment stocks, including MRE's, food, medical supplies, water and blankets."
Army Sustainment Command, a subset of AMC, has also set up generators and air conditioners at hospitals and orphanages in Haiti. This effort has been assisted by brigade logistics support teams on the ground called "Blast Teams" focused on making sure supplies reach Haitians in need, Feldmann said.
Thus far, supplies have been delivered to more than 16 sites, reaching 2.6 million people, Feldmann added.
"The people here [Haitians] are so gracious. They high-five us, smile and say thank you," Feldmann said.