Peacekeeping: Masters Of Disaster


December 6,2008: The United States has found that rapidly providing humanitarian aid is not only welcome in countries that need it, but something that the American military is uniquely equipped to take care of. It's not difficult to switch the payload from weapons to relief supplies and move out. This has led to all the services adopting more training programs that only involve humanitarian operations.

The U.S. Air Force has found its air dropped supplies particularly welcome in remote areas that are devastated, and difficult to reach by land routes. The army and air force even run drills, to hone their skills in rapidly mobilizing relief supplies and getting them on aircraft. The U.S. military even stockpiles relief supplies, knowing that there will always be emergencies in the future.

The army and marines have lots of training programs devoted to "civil affairs" (dealing with local civilians in a war, or disaster, zone.) Not to be outdone, the U.S. Navy has a fleet of amphibious ships that can be quickly ordered to head for disaster areas. For example, the navy's Wasp class amphibious ships  displace 40,000 tons each and are basically aircraft carriers that also carry landing craft and over a thousand marines. The medical facilities on the ship can treat 600 casualties, using four main and two emergency operating rooms, plus all the other facilities you'd expect to find in a hospital.

 The 40 or so helicopters that can operate off the flight deck of a Wasp class ship are a major asset during these post-disaster operations. The U.S. Navy has been enthusiastic about these disaster relief operations. The sailors and marines like to use their military skills for humanitarian operations, and the work is a form of useful training. The State Department likes these navy efforts as well, as they are very much appreciated by the victims and make the local politicians take a friendlier stance towards the United States. Thus the U.S. Navy also has adopted some training exercises for humanitarian missions.






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