CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Humanitarian Assistance Basics I

Monday, January 03, 2005

Humanitarian Assistance Basics I

Since Operation Golden Vision is just getting started, here are some basics from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1-0, "Marine Corps Operations," to help us interpret the news as it develops. [We predict that this story is going to get bigger, and will be better covered, not the opposite, which is counter-intuitive, given the way disaster coverage usually goes.] From Chapter 10, Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW), here is a very basic overview of Humanitarian Assistance Operations. It is a little dry, but useful tidbits can always be found:
Humanitarian assistance operations relieve or reduce the results of natural or manmade disasters that might present a serious threat to life or result in extensive damage to or loss of property. Humanitarian assistance provided by United States forces is generally limited in scope and duration. The assistance provided is designed to supplement or complement the host-nation civil authorities' efforts. The United States military provides assistance when the relief need is gravely urgent and when the humanitarian emergency overwhelms the ability of normal relief agencies to effectively respond. Humanitarian assistance operations may be directed by the National Command Authorities when a serious international situation threatens the political or military stability of a region considered of interest to the United States or when the humanitarian situation itself may be sufficient to and appropriate for employment of United States forces. The Department of State then requests Department of Defense assistance from the National Command Authorities. Humanitarian assistance operations may cover a broad range of missions. A humanitarian assistance mission could also include securing an environment to allow humanitarian relief efforts. In 1991, 24th MEU provided security, shelter, food, and water to the dissident Kurdish minority in northern Iraq. United States military forces participate in three basic types of humanitarian assistance operations: those coordinated by the United Nations, those where the United States acts in concert with other multinational forces, or those where the United States responds unilaterally. The Marine Corps can respond rapidly to emergencies or disasters and achieve order in austere locations. This response could include providing security, logistics, engineering, medical support, and command and control and communications capabilities. Marine Corps forces can provide sea-based humanitarian assistance. The 5th MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade) during Operation Sea Angel in 1991, assisted Bangladesh in the aftermath of a devastating tropical cyclone by distributing food and medical supplies and repairing the country's transportation infrastructure.
We would add that humanitarian assistance is one of the few cases wherein the Combat Service Support element of a given Marine Air-Ground Task Force is usually made the "main effort" of the operation. Usually, the CSS element is supporting the ground combat and air combat elements, but given the logistics command and control, and distribution capabilities of the CSS element, it can often be the main effort in a humanitarian assistance operation.

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