News: Air Force Evaluates Damaged Haitian Airports
WASHINGTON - The Air Force is working with U.S. Southern Command and the Haitian government to determine what's needed to bring damaged airports up to par to accept more humanitarian relief supplies, officials said Jan. 15.
A massive U.S.-international relief effort is under way to help Haitians stricken by a Jan. 12 earthquake that damaged much of the country's capital of Port-au-Prince.
Ongoing evaluations to determine how to increase traffic at the main airport at Port-au-Prince should be completed sometime today, Air Force Col. Steve Shea, director of the combat support center within the Air Force Office of Logistics Readiness, said during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.
"The Air Force is part of the joint and international support [effort] to help stop the suffering of the Haitians and to try to restore the infrastructure so they can essentially return to normalcy," Shea said.
The major supply route into Haiti right now is at the Port-au-Prince airport, the country's largest, Shea said, and the Air Force already has deployed airport security personnel, air traffic controllers and ground operations technicians to Port-au-Prince. The use of aluminum ground matting, he said, is an option being considered to increase ramp and runway capacity at Port-au-Prince and other Haitian airports.
Additionally, Shea said, a U.S. joint assessment team is evaluating ways to increase the Haitian capital's seaport capacity, which also was damaged by the earthquake.
"Clearly the ability to use a seaport enables both the international community and the Department of Defense to move [a] large tonnage of supplies that will be needed there at a capacity that exceeds what we could do by air lift," he explained.
The Air Force has a team of logistics and transportation experts focused on the Haiti relief mission, said Air Force Col. Sid Banks, chief of logistics plans within the Office of Logistics Readiness. The Air Force, Banks said, can deploy specially trained teams that have the ability to restore operations at the earthquake damaged Port-au-Prince airport.
"We can resume operations on that specific field that may have been crippled as a result of this catastrophe," Banks said. The Air Force, he added, also can supply water-purification units.
From a logistics standpoint, the Air Force's contributions to the Haitian humanitarian relief effort "are huge," Banks said. And it's imperative, he emphasized, that the relief effort for Haiti is a thought-out and organized endeavor.
"From a logistics-plan standpoint," Banks said, "we try to understand our roles and responsibilities, so we can be efficient and effective in getting the right stuff to the right place at the right time."