All around the world, after disasters or during longer-term crises like droughts, lots of organizations step up to offer humanitarian assistance. This kind of aid is meant to save lives, ease suffering and help people feel human again, and to enable the affected country to prepare for the next time disaster strikes.
Why would the Defense Department be involved?
Well, because the U.S. military can take itself and the supplies it needs pretty much anywhere on Earth. This ability is incredibly important in war, but it also means that DOD has the manpower, equipment and organizational assets to respond to international emergencies.
In a very broad sense, DOD’s humanitarian assistance program is divided into two parts — response and preparation.
During the response phase after a disaster has happened, DOD uses its personnel and equipment to deliver medical supplies, food and supplies for other basic needs.
Before disasters, DOD personnel are in countries all over the world to work with civil authorities such as local and state officials and first responders to prepare them to respond to future crises.
One example of this kind of preparation happened recently in Nepal. U.S. and Nepalese soldiers teamed up in Kathmandu to learn from each other as they trained to respond to the earthquakes so common in the region. Learn more about this training here.