By Christen N. McCluney, Emerging Media, Defense Media ActivityMay 13, 2010
WASHINGTON (May 12, 2010) -- Joint Task Force-Haiti is preparing to stand down their disaster relief mission in Haiti at the beginning of June, close to six months after an earthquake devastated the country.
"We will stand down the Joint Task Force on the first of June," Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, commanding general of Joint Task Force-Haiti, said during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable May 12."That is when I will take the last elements of United States Army South home and send those sister services personnel back to their home stations."
During the mission the largest number of United States forces in Haiti rose to over 22,000 personnel. Of those, about 14,000 were in ships at sea and 8,000 Soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen were on the ground at any given time during the height of operations, according to Trombitas.
Our mission has and remains to save lives, alleviate human suffering, and then transition into mitigating the ill effects of weather," he said.
The forces have now downsized to about 850 servicemembers on the ground in Haiti. Once JTF-Haiti stands down, a group of eight people will stay in Port-au-Prince to work with a traditional military liaison office. Their job will be to coordinate humanitarian missions with the lead U.S. federal agency, USAID, and the government of Haiti during the already scheduled theater security cooperation exercise called New Horizons.
The exercise will bring in about 500 Soldiers mainly from the Louisiana National Guard along with soldiers from the Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Puerto Rican and Virgin Island National Guards, to conduct engineering activities and medical readiness training exercises in the vicinity of Gonaives which is north of Port-au-Prince.
The group will work on engineering projects that include reconstructing three schools and building a fourth. They will also undergo medical training where personnel learn to become culturally aware of the activities in the country while bringing medical help to people in need.
When asked to measure the success of JTF-Haiti so far, Trombitas said he doesn't believe the success had there could be measured in numbers.
"Our first success was the incredible flexibility of our military," he said.
But he believes success is measured in how the Haitian people see the United States effort.
"Our success is measured and will be continued to be measured in those things that we have done here and how the Haitian people remember us."
(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)