Guardsmen ready to help in Haiti

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
  • National Guard Bureau
The chief of the National Guard Bureau said Jan. 13 that the Army and Air National Guard are prepared to help in the humanitarian relief effort in Haiti.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Haitian people, who have been devastated by this earthquake," said Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. "The National Guard stands ready to work with the Army and the Air Force to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti when called upon."

Specifically, the Puerto Rico National Guard, which is one of the closest U.S. territories in the area, has personnel and equipment on standby if they are needed.

The Puerto Rico Army Guard has alerted three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the 1/111th Aviation Company along with 12 crew members, and the Puerto Rico Air Guard has called up two C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 156th Airlift Wing with 21 support personnel, said Army Capt. Paul Dahlen, the state public affairs officer.

He said the aircraft have anticipated deployment times, but they are waiting for final approvals.

U.S. Southern Command officials are coordinating with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to assess the situation after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake left perhaps thousands of people dead and many more trapped beneath collapsed buildings, officials reported.

"If we are asked by the Department of State and the Department of Defense to provide assistance, we would do so in a supporting role," according to a statement from SOUTHCOM officials. "The U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance is the lead U.S. government agency for U.S. disaster relief efforts."

Command officials said they will deploy a team of 30 people to Haiti today, including military engineers, operational planners and a command and control group and communication specialists on the two C-130 aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. The team will work with U.S. Embassy personnel as well as Haitian, United Nations and other officials to assess the situation to provide follow-on support.

The last time the National Guard supported relief efforts in Haiti was 2008, when eight Air National Guard medical personnel were onboard the USS Kearsarge when it was diverted from its Continuing Promise mission to Haiti, which was devastated by Hurricane Ike.

"With nearly 450,000 people throughout 54 states and territories, the National Guard can deploy and respond to any disaster as needed, anywhere," said Walt Debany, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau.