News: HASTs mission determines need
By Cpl. Brandon L. Saunders and Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud
Humanitarian Assistance Survey Teams, III Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), are in Japan to assist in planning humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations following the March 11 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Marines and sailors from units across III Marine Expeditionary Force and as well as SeaBees with Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 133, 22nd Naval Construction Regiment, First Naval Construction Division, Naval Construction Force, came together to form the HASTs.
“It’s what we are here for as Seabees,” said Chief Petty Officer Joshua Kolenda, builder, NMCB 133. “This is our job.”
The HASTs are comprised of Marine and sailor subject matter experts in civil affairs, engineering, logistics, communications, motor transport and field medicine.
Marines and sailors combine complementary skill sets to accomplish the HAST mission, according to Petty Officer 1st Class Mathew Culberson, builder, NMCB 133.
HAST members evaluate the damage done in an area then provide commanders the information they need to analyze what missions need to be done and what people and equipment are needed to accomplish the missions, said Kolenda.
Structural damage assessments will be accomplished through cooperation between Marine civil and structural engineers along with construction input from the Seabees, said Kolenda.
“The civil affairs role on a team like this is to conduct … assessments of any type of natural disaster or crisis,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Tisdale, civil affairs chief for the HAST. “We provide the information to the commander in the rear so he can determine how much support is needed.”
“We work to understand the resources we have within III MEF and to match requirements to capabilities,” said Master Sgt. Alexis Gil, HAST staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF.
The HAST will also benefit from working closely with Japanese subject-matter experts from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, government and/or private sector, while pursuing the mission, according to Culberson.
“(The Japanese) have earthquakes here often, so their engineers are used to that challenge,” said Kolenda. “We are not here to give them advice on their engineering; they are very capable of that themselves. We are here to see what they want us to do to help them and see what we are capable of doing.
“We all work hand-in-hand,” added Kolenda.
The HAST’s initial priority will be on completing assessments of public works and utilities critical to sustaining a large population. The secondary priority is assessing personal residences and commercial business, according to Culberson.
Once HAST members determine the extent of damage, U.S. Forces Japan, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development along with Japanese authorities are able to form a coordinated response tailored to the needs of the affected areas, according to Kolenda.