On Standby: Preparing the U.S. military in Afghanistan for humanitarian operations

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Baker signals a forklift driver as supplies are loaded onto a C-130 J-30 at Kabul International Airport May 5, 2014. Coalition forces joined together to assist the Afghan government with relief efforts after a 2014 mudslide in Badakhshan province.
4 Mar 2018

BAGRAM, Afghanistan – To coordinate response efforts during a natural disaster in Afghanistan, from droughts to earthquakes, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is teaching a course in country to make sure the military is ready.

While USAID/OFDA is the U.S. Government lead for international disaster response, sometimes resources from other government agencies, such as military airlift capabilities, are required.

The Joint Humanitarian Operations Course (JHOC) was created in 2004 to prepare military leaders and planners to work collaboratively with civilian agencies during international disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operations.

"When we ask the military to come in to provide assistance on humanitarian assistance operations this usually means things have gotten really, really bad. This means civilian capabilities are stretched and there is a need for unique capabilities that only military assets can provide,” said Nick Kaufman, USAID Senior Humanitarian Adviser in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, more than 80 military participants went through the two-day JHOC at the end of January at Bagram Air Field and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

During the course, the military became familiar with USG international disaster response structures, relevant offices, policies, mandates, and roles and responsibilities.

The JHOC instructors used the military’s role in several previous real-world operations as relevant examples to help explain to newer personnel, how the military has been employed.

In the past two decades the military has shown the world it is capable of supporting massive humanitarian response. It helped when a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck beneath the Indian Ocean near Indonesia, generating a massive tsunami that claimed more than 230,000 lives in fourteen different countries in 2004. It also answered the call when 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010 killing upwards of 220,000 people and injuring another 300,000.

In South Asia, the military was there to help after the 2010 floods in Pakistan’s Swat valley region in 2010, and in Afghanistan, a team of coalition forces sent in C-130s to assist with humanitarian efforts after a mudslide flowed through a village in Badakhshan in 2014.

"At the end of the day you are going to be better equipped to collaborate and cooperate as one U.S. Government team when crisis hits,” said Herbert Smith, USAID Mission Director in Afghanistan, during closing remarks at the JHOC at the U.S. Embassy.

Since 2014, 427 military members have gone through the JHOC in Afghanistan.


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