Joint Task Force Haiti Prepares for ‘New Horizon’
By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May. 13, 2010 Joint Task Force Haiti is preparing to stand down its disaster-relief mission in Haiti at the beginning of June, nearly six months after a Jan. 12 earthquake devastated the country.
“We will stand down the joint task force on the first of June,” Army Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, the task force’s commanding general, said during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable yesterday. “That is when I will take the last elements of United States Army South home and send those sister-services personnel back to their home stations.”
More than 22,000 U.S. servicemembers were in Haiti at the height of the mission. Of those, about 14,000 were in ships at sea, while 8,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen were on the ground at any given time during the height of operations, Trombitas said.
The mission remains to save lives and alleviate suffering while transitioning into mitigating the ill effects of weather, the general said.
Currently, there are about 850 servicemembers on the ground in Haiti. Once the joint task force stands down, eight people will stay in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to work with a traditional military liaison office. Their job will be to coordinate humanitarian missions with the U.S. Agency for International Development -- the lead U.S. federal agency in the effort -- and the Haitian government during an already-scheduled theater security cooperation exercise called “New Horizons.”
The exercise will bring in about 500 soldiers, mainly from the Louisiana National Guard -- along with soldiers from the Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Puerto Rican and Virgin Island National Guards -- to conduct engineering activities and medical readiness training exercises around Gonaives, which is north of Port-au-Prince. The group will work on engineering projects that include rebuilding three schools and building a fourth. They also will receive training to become culturally aware of the activities in the country while bringing medical help to people in need.
When asked to measure the success of Joint Task Force Haiti so far, Trombitas said he doesn’t believe that success can be measured in numbers.
“Our first success was the incredible flexibility of our military,” he said. Success is measured, he added, in how the Haitian people see the U.S. effort.
“Our success is measured and will be continued to be measured in those things that we have done here and how the Haitian people remember us,” the general said.