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A Series of Firsts: The 3d ESC in Operation Unified Response

Before deploying to Haiti in response to the devastating 12 January 2010 earthquake, the 3d
Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) (ESC) had never deployed into an expeditionary environment to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. After its main body arrived in Haiti on 4 February 2010, the 3d ESC quickly realized that the scope and focus of its logistics mission was very different from its previous deployments to Iraq. With adaptive Soldiers and a diverse collection of logistics units, the command accomplished a series of historic firsts.

Mortuary Affairs Teams

Operation Unified Response in Haiti was the first time Army mortuary affairs assets and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) operated jointly to locate, recover, identify, and return the remains of U.S. citizens to the continental United States (CONUS) for final disposition. Operating from the Port-au-Prince airport, the Army mortuary affairs personnel and DMORT successfully returned the remains of 34 U.S. citizens killed in Haiti.

Every aspect of the effort was an opportunity to learn and improve the interoperability of Army mortuary affairs and DHHS assets. The major learning events during Operation Unified Response involved understanding the critical role of a theater mortuary affairs office, integrating Army mortuary affairs policy and procedures with DHHS policy and procedures, and understanding the capabilities and operational differences between DMORT and Army mortuary affairs assets.

In every military operation, a theater mortuary affairs office must be established in the initial planning stages. This applies to both conventional and humanitarian assistance operations. Initially, no requirement existed for a theater mortuary affairs office in Haiti. As a result, recovery operations were temporarily hindered while decisions were made about the disposition of local-national remains and which agency would take the lead in coordinating recovery operations. After-action review comments indicate recovery operations in Haiti would have been greatly improved if a theater mortuary affairs office had been immediately established to function as the central agent for Army mortuary affairs while liaising with the Incident Command System (ICS).

ICS operations differ from conventional Army mortuary affairs operations in both doctrine and procedures. In general, ICS operations respond to catastrophic emergencies within the United States while Army mortuary affairs operations are conducted outside CONUS. Operations in Haiti took the ICS mission beyond U.S. borders.

In view of this expanded role and in preparation for the likelihood of future operations of a similar nature, Army mortuary affairs units should develop a training and operations relationship with DHHS. Both agencies need to be familiar with the policies and procedures that are specific to each organization and understand how policy differences could affect combined efforts. Both organizations need to understand the other’s capabilities and shortcomings in order to provide complementary support in future operations.

DMORT provided the mortuary affairs Soldiers with a unique opportunity for technical growth and hands-on experience in the remains identification process. Army mortuary affairs procedures allow for the preservation and expeditious evacuation of forensic media from a theater of operations for further review. In Haiti, DMORT teams working with Army mortuary affairs Soldiers conducted in-theater forensic reviews that led to the positive identification of remains. The 3d ESC mortuary affairs personnel had never before completed forensic reviews prior to repatriation.

Support to the World Food Program

One of the most important missions that the 3d ESC performed in support of Operation Unified Response was logistics support to the World Food Program’s food distribution operation. During this operation, Soldiers from the 119th Inland Cargo Transfer Company (ICTC), serving under the command and control of the 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), supervised the loading, movement to the humanitarian support area (HSA), transloading, and staging of rice.

As the 530th CSSB depleted existing warehouse stocks of rice, the 10th Transportation Battalion delivered the additional volume required to provide rice to the Haitian population. The 97th Transportation Company offloaded incoming vessels, and the 119th ICTC transloaded the rice onto trucks. Soldiers from the 10th Transportation Company augmented existing local civilian transportation and moved rice to the HSA.

Nongovernmental organizations, with the assistance of U.S. and United Nations security, took the rice from the HSA to distribution points throughout Port-au-Prince. Over 2.98 million people received a week’s worth of rice (a total of 12,432 metric tons), mitigating the suffering of the Haitian people and providing a foundation for stabilization and recovery.

Army Watercraft Command and Control

Never before had the 3d ESC been responsible for Army watercraft command and control and management. This changed with Operation Unified Response. The 3d ESC provided the command and control of Army watercraft performing the expeditionary joint logistics over-the-shore and humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. Watercraft led by the 10th Transportation Battalion under the 7th Sustainment Brigade completed 103 missions and logged over 32,000 nautical miles in support of Operation Unified Response. The 97th Transportation Company provided six landing craft utility, and the 335th Transportation Company provided a logistics support vessel.

Along with their counterparts from Navy Beach Group Two, these Soldiers and watercraft provided critically needed ship-to-shore download and helped mitigate the operational impact of a port devastated by the earthquake. The 492d Transportation Detachment (Harbormaster Operations) coordinated waterborne operations, and the 73d Transportation Company provided large-tug capabilities. Some of the more unique watercraft missions included carrying trucks loaded with relief supplies and ferrying Army veterinarians to different cities around Haiti to vaccinate animals in support of the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture. Traveling to locations by ground was often impossible because earthquake damage made routes impassable.

Health Service Support Missions

Another first for the ESC was managing health service support in a humanitarian assistance operation. Given the number of casualties, medical care was one of the first essential services required to aid the citizens of Haiti. The medical personnel activated in support of Operation Unified Response were directed to deploy with a 30-day supply of surgical and medical equipment, including medical-grade oxygen tanks.

Kelly USA, located in San Antonio, Texas, was designated as the theater lead agent for medical materiel. This company assumed responsibility for providing direct class VIII (medical materiel) support to active ground forces. After receiving the requisition, Kelly USA coordinated shipment through direct liaison with U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). ARSOUTH and DLA coordinated the packaging and transportation of supplies from CONUS to Port-au-Prince.

The 583d Medical Logistics Company, Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-Haiti), the Joint Logistics Command (JLC), the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion (MMB), the U.S. Agency for International Development, and a number of nongovernmental agencies worked together to provide logistics advice and support to the Haitian PROMESS [Program on Essential Medicines and Supply] medical warehouse. With the support and relentless dedication of those military organizations, the PROMESS warehouse was able to develop and improve systems for day-to-day operations, resulting in more expeditious and efficient customer service.


Health Service Support Command and Control

Another first for the ESC as it formed the JLC was assuming command and control of the 56th MMB headquarters and other medical units, such as the Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Detachment. Never before had the ESC commanded and controlled medical units as part of its mission set. The 56th MMB brought a total of eight medical detachments with numerous key assets into theater. One of these elements was a medical logistics support element.

The headquarters for this element was the 583d Medical Logistics Company (MLC), which included a team of 83 medical supply subject-matter experts who arrived 4 weeks into the operation. The 583d MLC was designated as the theater single integrated medical logistics manager. All medical units operating in theater ordered class VIII items through the 583d MLC using the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support Customer Assistance Module. The 583d MLC assumed sole responsibility for communicating directly with Kelly USA.

The 583d MLC also provided medical maintenance, oxygen tank refill, and class VIII distribution oversight and management for the entire joint operational area. The involvement of the 583d MLC in the medical supply chain made for a smoother transition from the automated system to the hands of the customer. The unit provided the supplies necessary for uninterrupted healthcare while remaining a good steward of Government funds.

Contract Management Cell

Another nondoctrinal mission the ESC performed in Haiti involved managing contracts across the joint operational area. On 9 February, the JLC assumed contract management oversight responsibility for all JTF-Haiti service and supply contracts. For the first time in the unit’s history, the 3d ESC established a contract management cell (CMC), which served as a conduit between Regional Contracting Command-Haiti and JTF-Haiti.

The CMC was responsible for reviewing requirement packets, preparing unit requests for joint acquisition review board approval, and overseeing contract management once a contract was established. The CMC processed over 89 contracts and obligated over $2.55 million, with over $1.65 million going to host-nation businesses.

Deployment/Redeployment Coordination Cell

On 17 February, JTF-Haiti tasked the JLC to establish a deployment/redeployment coordination cell (DRCC) no later than 21 February. The DRCC’s mission was to command and control redeployment operations and support, manage, deconflict, and monitor unit redeployment activities. The DRCC’s key tasks were to synchronize the movement of redeploying personnel and equipment among unit staging areas, the seaport of embarkation, and the aerial port of embarkation; validate unit movement documentation; and monitor and close unit line numbers.

The DRCC operated under the guidance of the JLC support operations officer and consisted of several personnel from various sections within the JLC. The cell was augmented with redeploying unit liaison officers, personnel from various JLC subordinate units, and a military police company tasked to provide customs support.

On short notice and with limited personnel and resources, the DRCC established capabilities critical to the successful redeployment of units supporting Operation Unified Response. The DRCC mission was a first for the 3d ESC, and when the unit transferred JLC responsibility to the 377th Theater Sustainment Command, the DRCC had processed, staged, and shipped over 500 pieces of equipment and redeployed hundreds of personnel from several battalion-sized or smaller units.

Although it was not doctrinally organized, equipped, or manned to accomplish many of its missions in Haiti, the 3d ESC was able to establish operations and support Operation Unified Response within days of receiving deployment notification. Despite lacking experience in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, the 3d ESC—thanks to Soldier resiliency and adaptive leadership—arrived in Haiti, assumed a mission for which it had not previously trained, and provided much-needed support to joint forces and the Haitian people.

Major Paul R. Hayes is the public affairs officer of the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The command would like to thank the many individuals who contributed to this article.


 
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