October 09, 2009

Weekly News Roundup: First Responders

One disaster after another seems to be hitting the Pacific Ocean area. We’ve been following emergency relief efforts as the military tries to aid those hit by Typhoons Parma and Melor, Tropical Storm Ketsana, as well as the earthquake in Indonesia and the tsunami it spawned that hit American Samoa. With so many relief operations occurring simultaneously, it is important to know how we’re using our forces and what resources have been most valuable.

As humanitarian disaster become more frequent, DoD has been more cognizant of the new role that it plays in responding to those victimized regions. They have launched a separate section of their website to chronicle relief efforts by gathering news stories and photos of disaster-struck communities. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy has wondered what impact disaster-relief missions will have on the role of the U.S. military in the Pacific. They argue that disasters are a prime opportunity to help others and create a positive image for the United States abroad.  This will require considering humanitarian efforts when outfitting military units. For example, helicopters for search and rescue and large transport planes for relief delivery were particularly useful in American Samoa. Having skilled medical personnel and troops ready to deploy for search and rescue missions was also deemed highly useful by locals. Back in the States, DoD has raised awareness of its activities with outreach like the bloggers rountable with U.S. Navy CDR Matthew Ovios that we covered here this week. CDR Ovios is the commanding officer of the USS Ingraham which responded to the tsunami in American Samoa. 

The chart at the bottom has been compiled from military news reports made available from the Defense Department, including the Army Times and DoD News, and is only a sampling of these missions. It is apparent that the Navy, Air Force, and Marines are all participating in relief efforts, in addition to the Coast Guard and the Army National Guard. To be clear, this chart only includes the military components of the U.S. disaster relief efforts. In fact, most physical supplies for troops were provided by the military (for a good look at supplies used in relief efforts see our previous post). Needless to say, the physical cost-outlays the military has made as well as the opportunity-cost of responding to disasters like this are substantial.

Resource Service Disaster Mission
C-130 Hercules transport Air Force Earthquake in Indonesia Supply Delivery
USS Denver Navy Earthquake in Indonesia Navy rear admiral and three heavy-lift helicopters
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines Earthquake in Indonesia Helicopter airlift transport; Medical Support
Two Additional Naval Ships (USS McCampbell Navy Earthquake in Indonesia Relief
U.S. Air Force Rapid-Response Team Air Force Earthquake in Indonesia Humanitarian Assistance
5 C-17 Globemaster III Transport Jets (11 missions) Hawaiian Air National Guard and Air Force Tsunami Relief Search and Rescue Teams; Mortuary Affairs Specialists; Vehicles; Food Supplies (700,000 pounds of supplies)
USS Ingraham Navy Tsunami Relief 2 Helicopters
National Guard Personnel   Tsunami Relief Air-cargo Operations; Humanitarian-Relief Operations
Navy SEAL teams and Naval Special Boat Teams Navy Tropical Storm Ketsana Search and Rescue
F-470 Zodiac Boats Joint Special Operations Task Force Tropical Storm Ketsana Rescue and Distribution of Supplies
450 U.S. Marines and Sailors Marines/Navy Typhoon Parma and Tropical Storm Parma Supply Delivery; Provided Basic Medical Care
USS Harpers Ferry and Tortuga Navy Typhoon Parma  Unidentified Mission