Friday, January 29, 2010

TF 48 Routes Haiti Relief Through Gitmo

By Army Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Task Force 48 has been established to support the shipment of supplies during Operation Unified Response and provide logistical support to Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti at U.S. Naval Station (NAVSTA) Guantanamo Bay after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay is strategically located to provide humanitarian assistance and support relief efforts as part of Operation Unified Response.

"Because of its location and the airfield and seaport here, Guantanamo is an ideal spot for a joint logistics hub," said Rear Adm. Patricia Wolfe, commander, Task Force 48, which supports the shipment of humanitarian supplies and personnel between the United States and other nations through Guantanamo to landing zones in Haiti and offshore ships.

Personnel at the joint logistics hub work day and night to move food, water, personnel and medical supplies to the areas in Haiti where they are needed most.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, JTF Guantanamo and NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay stepped in as a bridging agent to facilitate movement of material and supplies to Haiti until Task Force 48 stood up.

"We immediately partnered with the naval station commander to assist in the increased operations as a result of the horrible tragedy in Haiti," said Rear Adm. Tom Copeman, JTF Guantanamo commander. "Since the arrival of Task Force 48, we have provided our expertise and local knowledge for their continued support in Operation Unified Response."

To make this large-scale movement of supplies possible, Task Force 48 is using a combination of air and sea assets, both civilian and military, to coordinate and move lifesaving aid to the earthquake victims.

"We're using every conceivable means to get supplies to Haiti where they are needed," Wolfe said.

The air terminal at Guantanamo hosts a variety of aircraft including cargo planes, passenger aircraft, helicopter support and the C-2 Greyhound carrier on board delivery aircraft which facilitate movement between the naval base and the many ships in the area. The seaport at Guantanamo Bay is another important asset to the humanitarian mission. Various military and international ships dock at the naval station to pick up, transfer or deliver supplies.

Wolfe knows the importance of routing assets through Guantanamo, just 170 miles from Port-au-Prince, and getting the Task Force 48 infrastructure and command in place to make the delivery of humanitarian assistance quicker and smoother.

"The airport in Haiti is overwhelmed," said Wolfe.
"Without coordination, material would come from all over and no one would have control."

Although supplies and assets continue to arrive to augment the mission at Guantanamo Bay, Wolfe is pleased with the progress of the task force in such a short time.

"So far the mission has been successful," said Wolfe. "We're keeping the ships supplied and moving supplies out of Guantanamo."

Task Force 48 will continue to manage all air and sea assets at NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay and work with all multinational partners in the effort to provide humanitarian assistance and to sustain the force in the relief effort.