480th ISR Wing Airmen aid Haiti recovery

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Dale Yates
  • Air Force ISR Agency
Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Airmen have been processing images since Jan. 14 to aid humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

Just two days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, these Air Force specialists have been using their talents to assist the recovery efforts in the Caribbean nation.

"Our analysts are highly trained in damage assessment, and in this case, Mother Nature caused incredible damage to the Haiti. What we immediately started looking for were the status of the infrastructure such as power and water treatment plants, locations where people were massing, the state of traffic patterns, and locations for airfields and helicopter landing zones," said Col. Dan Johnson, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander. "We are one of many organizations helping respond to this crisis, and our hearts and prayers go out to the Haitians. We'll do everything we can to assist them with a speedy recovery."

Colonel Johnson's wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va., led the ISR efforts after receiving the request from U.S. Southern Command, the Defense Department command tasked to lead U.S. military efforts in Haiti. By using the agency's Distributed Common Ground System, Airmen captured more than 3,600 images from the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft, and shared the analysis work with three ISR teams at Langley AFB, Beale AFB, Calif., and Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The global Air Force DCGS also allowed for Guard units in Indiana and Massachusetts to assist by taking on other ISR requests.

"Together, as a total force, we are supporting the humanitarian relief operations and, at the same time, have not missed any missions that are tasked from Iraq or Afghanistan," Colonel Johnson said. "This is an excellent example that shows our ability to flex for the full range of military operations we are tasked to support. Our network can call on global assets, allowing us to support the Haiti efforts at this time without mission loss to on-going contingency operations."

Once captured, the images would be useless unless they could get into the hands of nonmilitary aid organizations.

"We received unclassified imagery on classified networks and quickly provided it to the U.S. Southern Command to make available to anyone involved in the relief efforts in Haiti," said Lt. Col. Mike Clark, the 27th Intelligence Squadron commander.

To date, the efforts produced more than 700 unclassified images that helped identify such items as displaced people, major damage to infrastructure and clear ground routes, helping prioritize short- and long-term relief efforts.

"Our Airmen are the most innovative and adaptive," said Lt. Col. Jason Brown, the 13th Intelligence Squadron commander. "In this case, we adapted to humanitarian support, which includes damage assessment, support to targeted aid and situational awareness to relief organization for population shifts. This is a very tragic event, and we are doing what we can to help."

"We are committed to ensuring our global enterprise can direct the talents of our team wherever needed," Colonel Johnson added. "Today, that need is in Haiti, and it is our privilege to support this effort and hopefully help save lives."