Commander Discusses Brigade’s Role in Haiti
By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Mar. 25, 2010 Hundreds of Army paratroopers continue to provide humanitarian aid to earthquake survivors in Haiti, even as they prepare to return home.
“We represent one small piece of [the Defense Department’s] contribution to the operation here," Army Col. Tim McAteer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade, said during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable yesterday.
The brigade deployed to Haiti in mid-January. McAteer said the team was prepared for deployment within five hours of the initial call. McAteer became the brigade’s commander Feb. 9.
“When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of calm throughout the city,” he said.
The brigade’s soldiers have been working in phased operations with Joint Task Force Haiti, initially providing immediate assistance and disaster relief, along with security and humanitarian aid. They transitioned to helping the World Food Program’s surge, providing security and assistance to nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations as they provided food and water to displaced Haitians.
“This had a huge effect on the population,” McAteer said.
Immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake, he explained, the government and security in Haiti experienced major setbacks. “We were able to fill that void and serve as a supporting element,” the colonel said.
McAteer added that the brigade’s paratroopers broke down many barriers and changed misconceptions about the U.S. military as they quickly ascertained the needs of the Haitian people.
For example, he said, a university hospital in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince was inundated with patients, and help from the brigade’s soldiers allowed the hospital staff to turn things around.
The airport and naval ports now are operating at pre-earthquake capacity, McAteer said, and the security environment is vastly improved. “When you look at the trends in security, it has been very calm throughout our stay here,” he said. “There have been no acts of violence against American soldiers.”
The brigade continues to provide relief while preparing to redeploy. “We have about 900 paratroopers left,” the colonel said. But if conditions warrant, he added, the paratroopers always will be prepared to return.
“I think you can be justifiably proud of the work done,” he said. “We had a game-changing impact in the opening stages and things were heading on a dangerous path, but we were able to turn the tide.
“It was a very successful operation,” he continued. “There is still a ton of work to be done down here, and I do believe the conditions are right to have long-term success.”