PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Southern Command's (Southcom) Joint Task Force Haiti officially completed its mission today marking the end of Operation Unified Response almost five months after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12 devastated the country.
However, Southcom's commitment to Haiti continues with engineering projects as part of New Horizons, as well as visits by medical assistance teams. Additionally, the medical staff aboard the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima will provide basic medical care and perform specialized surgeries during a visit to the Caribbean nation this summer.
According to Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander, U.S. Southern Command, "These engineering projects and medical services were coordinated and approved by the Government of Haiti and USAID and demonstrate our continued support to the people of Haiti. We also have a robust capability to rapidly respond to any future disaster situation in Haiti."
New Horizons, is a humanitarian assistance exercise involving approximately 500 National Guard troops, will take place in various locations in Haiti outside the country's capital, Port au Prince, from June to September and includes the construction of schools, clinics, and community centers that can also serve as hurricane shelters. USS Iwo Jima is scheduled to arrive at the Port de Paix area in July.
In addition to these New Horizons activities, U.S. Southern Command will fund $13 million in disaster preparedness and humanitarian assistance projects designed to enhance the capacity of the Government of Haiti to provide essential services to its citizens. The projects include the construction of four emergency operations centers and four disaster response warehouses that will increase the Haitian government's response capability to future natural and man-made disasters.
There were many significant accomplishments achieved by JTF-Haiti during its tenure in Haiti. U.S. military medical professionals evaluated and treated thousands of earthquake survivors and military surgeons conducted nearly 1,000 surgeries. The majority of the surgeries were performed onboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
U.S. military forces delivered more than 2.6 million bottles of water, 2.2 million food rations, 17 million pounds of bulk food and 149,000 pounds of medical supplies into Haiti. Specialized units also improved and increased the capacity at the south pier at the Port au Prince's main port facility.
Further, U.S. troops looked ahead by assisting the Haitian government and the international community in planning for the next stage of the humanitarian response. For example, JTF Haiti assessments teams evaluated public health requirements, the structural integrity of critical infrastructure, and longer-term food and nutrition needs throughout their tour.
Perhaps most renowned U.S. military contribution to Haiti's recovery was the reopening and operation of Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port au Prince by the airmen of the 1st Special Operations Wing. Within 30 hours of the earthquake and less than 30 minutes after landing, they controlled airfield operations from a card table and used hand-held radios to safely land and take-off hundreds of aircrafts.
"I am proud of Joint Task Force Haiti's accomplishments and the men and women who filled its ranks," said Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, the first commander of the JTF. "We could not have done our mission, however, without the collaborative support and interaction with the Government of Haiti, MINUSTAH, other agencies of our government; especially Department of State and USAID and numerous NGOs all of whom were dedicated to helping the people of Haiti recover from this disaster."
New Horizons missions began in the mid-1980s as an annual series of joint and combined humanitarian assistance exercises that Southcom conducts with Latin American and Caribbean nations. The exercises typically last several months, providing medical and infrastructure projects. These missions give deployed U.S. military forces invaluable training opportunities to work with partner nations.
USS Iwo Jima is part of Continuing Promise 2010 which is an annual humanitarian civic assistance exercise supported by U.S. and international military medical personnel, U.S. government agencies, regional health ministries, NGOS and U.S. academic institutions. In addition to Haiti, USS Iwo Jima will also visit ports in other countries in the region over the course of the summer and fall.
For additional information about Operation Unified Response visit:
For VIDEO of Operation Unified Response visit: http://www.dvidshub.net/?script=media/media_tags.php&tag=haiti-relief&table=video
For PHOTOS of Operation Unified Response: http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imagery.html#a=collection&cid=4917784
SOURCE U.S. Southern Command