The U.S. Navy And The Haitian Relief Effort

The catastrophe in Haiti has evoked an enormous worldwide response. The biggest role so far has been played by the United States Navy, which was quick to dispatch various important resources. For the past few days a Navy “resource” of my own has been sending me informative emails and links describing and analyzing this mission.

The USS Carl Vinson was dispatched to Haiti almost at once. My friend wrote the following:

Fresh water? Steamships never disappeared as some civilians might think. Every major system on that carrier is steam operated, from the propulsion at the keel to the catapults on the flight deck. (And since this will be a helo operation, the steam that would normally be used for the cats isn’t gonna be needed – for the most part). The Vinson is “probably” capable of producing 500,000 gallons of freshwater/day.

Medical facilities, “room and board,” hot showers? Since this will be a helo op, there’ll likely be personnel aboard for the operation of a single cat – so no need for the normal complement of 2500 or so sailors and airmen. And being so close to the US “probably” means that another 1000 bunks are open. However there will in all likelihood be a fully staffed galley (4) capable of producing 20,000 hot meals/day.

It’ll take the Comfort awhile longer to take up station, so until it does, Vinson is gonna be a beehive. The only question I have about how much we’ll see via the media is because the airspace around a carrier is usually “a no-fly zone” and there’s gonna be a helluva lot of military assets in the air, whether CNN will be granted permission for it’s own helos.

Regardless, this opportunity to witness what an aircraft carrier is capable of will be unprecedented.

But despite the enormous capabilities of a modern aircraft carrier, my friend was clear that scale of the disaster was larger still:

Just remember, Haiti has 3 million people affected, and as capable as the Vinson is, it’s just one ship.

On Friday my friend sent me this:

I just got the news two USMC “heavy lifters” are preparing to depart Florida sometime in the next 15 or so hours. Of course because of range they’ll have to be shipped. Probably arrive in about 24 hours.

Over at Information Dissemination, which is as always the pre-eminent resource about all things naval, there have been some excellent and detailed updates about the US response. In particular, interested readers should take the time to read this post, which contains a great deal of detailed information, and outlines the importance — not just to the suffering multitudes in Haiti, but also to the United States as well — of an effective relief effort.

There are three essential tasks here: the provision of supplies, the succor of the wounded, and the maintenance of security. As for the first, they are greatly complicated here by the destruction of Port-au-Prince’s port facilities and airport control tower. A carrier like the Vinson, which is of course a floating airport, has a highly sophisticated air-traffic control system aboard. I haven’t got a photo of the Vinson‘s setup, but here’s a shot of the radar tower of the USS Abraham Lincoln:

As the only body with the resources to do so, the U.S. is now controlling the Haitian airspace, and all flights must register with Tyndall Air Base in Florida. This is a very difficult situation, and it has not gone entirely smoothly — there have been complaints about difficulty of access for some incoming flights — but it is presumably better than chaos.

Meanwhile the Coast Guard cutter Oak has arrived on scene, with heavy cranes to address the task of making the city’s port usable again.

To help provide medical services the hospital ship Comfort is on its way (as my friend mentioned above), and should arrive by Wednesday.

The security problem is growing. It is a safe bet that there are already a good many SEALs and SpecOps on the scene. I also have heard that there may be Xe (formerly Blackwater) personnel there also, though I have no confirmation of that.

Here is another resource for those who want to keep up with the Navy’s ongoing mission in Haiti: the website of the U.S. Southern Command.

I am indebted to my source, who must remain anonymous, for providing me with a fascinating insider’s look at all of this.


  1. Kevin Kim says

    How is “Xe” pronounced? “Zay”? “Zee”? “Eks-ee”? It looks like the French way to write “tenth,” and if it were indeed French, “Xe” would be pronounced “dee-zee-em” (dixième), usually written “Xe,” but often written as “Xe” if superscripting isn’t possible.

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 3:18 am | Permalink
  2. Kevin Kim says

    Also meant to say that it’s good to have a concrete picture of what’s going on in Haiti. My thanks to your anonymous friend for this invaluable information.

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 3:19 am | Permalink
  3. Kevin Kim says

    I just noticed an interesting quirk: in the preview to my first comment, the second-to-last time I wrote “Xe,” the “e” was superscripted, as I’d intended. I see, though, that the superscript was lost after the comment was published. Does the comment system not accept the “sup” and “/sup” HTML tags?

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi Kevin,

    I added the ‘sup’ tag to your comment, and it seems fine. I don’t know why it would have been dropped before.

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  5. Kevin Kim says

    Thanks, Malcolm. I’ll test it again:


    I’ve pointed my dad to your blog post. He’s interested in the military aspect of what’s going on in Haiti.


    Posted January 19, 2010 at 3:04 am | Permalink
  6. JK says

    Say “Hello” to Dad for me Kevin.

    Posted January 19, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink
  7. JK says

    Posted January 19, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  8. Kevin Kim says

    Thanks, JK.

    Posted January 20, 2010 at 1:13 am | Permalink
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    Posted August 3, 2013 at 12:59 am | Permalink

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