By Judith Snyderman, Emerging Media, Defense Media ActivityApril 6, 2010
WASHINGTON (April 2, 2010) -- The deputy commander of the military task force set up after a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti said the U.S. military will continue to support the work of Haiti's government and international agencies after the task force is deactivated at the end of May.
Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, deputy commanding general of Joint Task Force Haiti, noted during a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable yesterday that the mission in Haiti is out of the usual military lane.
"In a traditional military mission, we can designate the enemy and do those things easily," he said. "Here, really, the adversaries are the forces of nature and time."
Another difference, Trombitas explained, is that instead of commanding and controlling the mission, the U.S. military has played a support role, "coordinating and collaborating" with lead agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which provided security.
Trombitas said he is impressed by how well combat skills have transferred to the relief mission. He observed that servicemembers' experiences working with civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have paid off in Haiti.
The general recalled that the Haiti mission started with work to bring "order from chaos" at the airport. He added that the Seabees performed "a Herculean effort in fixing the main pier [and] the south pier, with some underwater engineering there, bolstering the pylons that the pier stands on."
Current efforts are focused on preparing for the coming rainy season by relocating some of the 1.3 million displaced people from camps that are at risk for flooding, Trombitas said. He described the greatest needs as shelter, settlement and sanitation.
"We have the Seabees doing construction projects," he said. "We have the Air Force [helping at] the airfield and one of the hospitals here. We have Marines integrated into the staff, as well as the Coast Guardsmen, and everyone's still doing their share."
At the peak of the crisis, some 20,000 U.S. servicemembers were involved in the mission. A phased withdrawal has reduced that number to 2,400.
"Every Soldier, sailor, airmen, Marine and Coast Guardsman that I have had the opportunity to talk to is extremely proud to be a part of this mission," Trombitas said. "And the leadership here is really proud to lead these folks and really even prouder to serve alongside them."