By Lt. Col. Ralph J. Riddle, SDDCJuly 28, 2010
Editor's Note: In the immediate wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake in January, U.S. Transportation Command's recently-established Joint Task Force - Port Opening was called upon for its intended mission: opening ports and providing logistics support on short notice. In the first contingency response mission for the JTF-PO Sea Port of Debarkation team, the JTF-PO proved its mettle, opening the port at Port-au-Prince, managing operations above and beyond their mission requirements, and gaining crucial experiences to apply to their next challenge. What follows is a first-hand account from the JTF-PO (SPOD) commander, originally drafted to Gen. Duncan McNabb, USTRANSCOM commander, and his staff. Lt. Col. Riddle has since retired from active duty.
January 12 - One of the most devastating natural disasters of our time struck when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in the small impoverished nation of Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving the capital city of the small nation in ruin. The earthquake left the Port of Port-au-Prince incapable of receiving critical humanitarian aid and disaster relief, or supporting the nation's frail backbone of trade and commerce.
Soon after hearing of the disaster, the "Gators" of the 832nd Transportation Battalion, headquartered at the Port of Jacksonville, Fla., watched the developments on the news. Knowing that the 832nd is one of two battalions in SDDC certified for Joint Task Force - Port Opening (JTF-PO) Seaport of Debarkation (SPOD) operations, and that Haiti is in our area of responsibility, we immediately realized, "there is no way we are not going to deploy to open a port in Haiti." We immediately focused on the inevitable task at hand.
Prior to receiving a formal Warning Order, the 832nd initiated an internal Warning Order to configure the deployable team including the SPOD joint assessment team (JAT) and the main body, comprised of Department of the Army civilians, military, and commercial stevedore contractors from our Port in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Within 48 hours of the earthquake, we received our formal Warning Order and JAT Execution Order, and put all the wheels in motion to assure a timely departure in accordance with the USTRANSCOM Commander's vision for JTF-PO operations.
The full story , including more photos from the mission in Haiti as well as SDDC's missions around the world, is available in the Spring/Summer issue of SDDC's Translog (PDF).