NEWS

Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD)
Personnel Support Haitian Disaster Relief Effort

By Darrell D. Ames, JTF-HD Public Affairs


Lt. Col. Robin Lau (left) and Maj. Stanley Garcia, the two lead operations officers for Joint Task Force Homeland Defense, were recently tasked with supporting the Hatian relief effort, Operation Unified Response. (Photo by Darrell Ames, JTF-HD Public Affairs) Lt. Col. Robin Lau (left) and Maj. Stanley Garcia, the two lead operations officers for Joint Task Force Homeland Defense, were recently tasked with supporting the Hatian relief effort, Operation Unified Response. (Photo by Darrell Ames, JTF-HD Public Affairs)

Two members of Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) were recently called upon to assist with the Haitian disaster relief effort, Operation Unified Response following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12.

Army Lt. Col. Robin Lau and Army Maj. Stanley Garcia were dispatched along with 4 other officers from U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) to work at U. S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami in support of the Foreign Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) for Haiti.

"We worked in the J55 cell and assisted in creating the strategic campaign framework for the operation," said Garcia. Lau and Garcia’s efforts were instrumental in helping Department of Defense (DoD) personnel understand what the US military role is during disaster relief efforts, and what tasks to focus on. "It was a good feeling, knowing we were even a small part of a very large operation. DoD itself is only a small fraction of overall relief efforts. There are a lot of other agencies involved that usually never make headlines, but it is very important when DoD assets do get involve, we set the stage during initial efforts, then quickly transition tasks to other agencies who continue to support throughout the duration.", said Lau. U.S. troops in Haiti worked with host government and international organizations in a successful effort to provide food, water, and medical care to the Haitian people.

JTF-HD’s dynamic duo were given very short notice, often times a staple of military life, when instructed to be on scene in Miami. "I was initially notified by the boss (Army Col. David Norton, JTF-HD Chief) while I was on temporary duty in Guam," said Garcia. Upon his return to Hawaii, Garcia received a phone call from Lau instructing on deploying to Miami. "I was told that I needed to get to Miami as soon as possible. I left for Miami the following day," Garcia said.

Immediately after setting foot on ground in Miami, Lau and Garcia linked-up with the other members from PACOM and began creating the campaign framework for the operation, then later shifting to the management of the campaign plan which included planning a DoD force exit strategy. "The products of our effort were viewed at all levels including the Combatant Commander, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the President," Garcia said.

Lau and Garcia were proud to be part of team supporting the operation and spoke highly of the other members from the PACOM contingency. "Having recently supported multiple HA/DR events throughout the pacific, we quickly realized how knowledgeable and experienced the PACOM contingency was. Their level of commitment was key in ensuring that our support to Operation Unified Response was successful," said Garcia. "JTF-HD is accustomed to dealing with more domestic events which includes support to FEMA versus the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). So this was a learning experience for us as well", added Lau.

JTF-HD, with its Defense Coordinating Element, is based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii and is designated as the Homeland Defense coordinating agency between the Department of Defense and the civilian authorities in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands as well as three foreign governments in the JOA to include the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Working closely with Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and military organizations in the Pacific, JTF-HD develops a Common Operational Picture and helps coordinate implementation of a comprehensive Critical Infrastructure Protection Program.