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The evacuation of American citizens and U.S. embassy personnel was conducted as a precautionary measure to ensure their safety in the midst of a heated border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia. All total, 172 persons were safely evacuated to Amman, Jordan, via KC-130 Hercules aerial transport.
While the NEO portion of military operations tends to be covered extensively within a news cycle, the mission doesn’t stop there. Often, foreign humanitarian assistance operations are conducted simultaneously with other types of operations, such as peace operations, nation assistance, or noncombatant evacuation operations.
The purpose of foreign humanitarian assistance is to relieve or reduce the results of a natural disaster or other conditions such as human suffering, disease, or privation that might present a serious threat to life or loss of property. “The US military itself has played a major role in providing embassy reinforcement, noncombatant evacuation, and most notability, foreign humanitarian assistance,” said GySgt. Paul Aleman, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Combat Logistic Detachment 113, Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th MEU. “The Marines and sailors with the CLB and Battalion Landing Team, 1st Bn., 4th Marines play a significant and vital role when conducting these missions.”
U.S. forces, such as a MEU, are uniquely equipped and structured to provide a rapid and capable response when such missions arise. However, U.S. military forces act as a supplemental support force and are not the primary U.S. Governmental means of providing FHA.
“Ultimately, military participation in FHA only supplements the activities of U.S. and foreign civil authorities as well as private organizations,” said 1st Lt. Kurt Hoffman, a civil affairs officer with the11th MEU. “Normally, FHA includes humanitarian services and transportation, to include provision of food and water, clothing, beds and bedding, temporary shelter and housing, medical material, medical and technical services, and essential service restoration.”
The CLB is specially trained in these areas, and contain platoons that can provide logistical support in the form of capabilities such as conducting water purification, general engineering, transportation, bulk fueling, aviation landing support, heavy equipment operating, electrical engineering, medical response, and communications.
Disasters can result from acts of nature or acts of man such as civil violence and nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) incidents. Military forces may assist with relief, dislocated civilian support (refugees, displaced or stateless persons, evacuees, and other victims of conflict or manmade or natural disaster), and security of technical assistance.
Security of technical assistance could include such short-term tasks as communications restoration, relief supply management, provision of emergency medical care, humanitarian demining assistance, and high priority relief supply delivery. The U.S. military may provide humanitarian demining training and technical education programs to develop long-term local demining capabilities, as well as mine awareness programs to educate the local populace of the danger of landmines.
According to Hoffman, though FHAs are of a limited time and scope, the MEU’s unique capability to provide short-term assistance to people in need, far from our native shores, is of strategic importance in establishing or improving the bonds between the U.S. and our allies.
Though COMPTUEX is a scenario-based exercise designed to further integrate the 11th MEU with the ships and Sailors of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, both service members of the 11th MEU and Amphibious Squadron 5 will continue to train, coordinate and improve future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities while deployed this fall.