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News Release


Release No: 580-98
November 06, 1998


Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen today appointed Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera to serve as his personal representative in Washington to coordinate DoD support of ongoing U.S. Southern Command assistance to countries in Central America recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch.

"The Department of Defense, because of its unique resources, will be crucial to the U.S. government response. It is essential that the Department of Defense continues to mount an effective and efficient relief effort. I am, therefore, designating Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera as my Personal Representative for Hurricane Mitch relief activities. As such, Secretary Caldera will act as my eyes and ears on this effort; he will visit the region to provide on-scene updates of the progress that our forces are making in responding to the relief requests received from the affected nations and will report directly to me with any recommendations he deems appropriate," Cohen said in the appointment order.

Secretary Caldera will travel to the region this weekend to see firsthand how the relief effort is proceeding. He will meet with U.S. Southern Command Commander in Chief Marine Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, who is coordinating U.S. relief efforts in theater.

Cohen specifically asked Caldera to look at our longer term efforts to help rebuild the infrastructure in the most devastated areas. National Guard units already engaged in engineering projects in Central America as part of Joint Task Force Bravo headquartered in Soto Cano, Honduras have been asked to see how their efforts could be redirected to help with this task.

In addition, Cohen has directed the deployment of additional DoD resources to Honduras and the surrounding region to assist in the relief effort. Joining Task Force Hope are:

  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 (one D5 bulldozer; two loaders; 125 personnel)
  • Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico

  • Combat Stress Control Detachment (22 personnel)
  • Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • Preventative Medicine Assessment Team (six personnel)
  • Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • Veterinarian Team (two personnel)
  • Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • 49th Public Affairs Det. (seven personnel)
  • Fort Bragg, N.C.

Additionally a helicopter package of five U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Ft. Stewart, Ga., and five CH-47 helicopters and six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from Ft. Bragg are being readied for immediate transport to Panama.

President Clinton has authorized the Department to expend $30 million in defense resources for the relief effort. This funding is made available under authority granted the President under Section 506(a)(2) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which provides for a drawdown of military assets, stockpiles, and funding under emergency circumstances of the kind now existing in Central America.

The Department has already sent over 600 personnel, 20 rotary wing and four fixed wing aircraft to support Department of State and Central American government relief efforts. To date they have flown over 140 missions rescuing over 675 people stranded by the flooding and carrying some 575 tons of relief supplies including food, medical supplies, water bladders, plastic sheeting, and bottled water.

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