Operators from the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron (STS) have wrapped up earthquake relief operations in Haiti. Deployed there after a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14, STS operators had been instrumental in supplying aid and re-opening the country’s infrastructure.


Nature Strikes Haiti

At 0829 EDT, August 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred on the Tiburon peninsula of Haiti, about 90 miles west of the capital, Port-Au-Prince. The earthquake flattened buildings, downed trees and power lines, and made travel to many parts of the island impossible.

Just three days after the earthquake came Tropical Depression Grace, a tropical storm that dropped inches of rain on an already damaged infrastructure. Actual rainfall amounts are not reported, but forecasters predicted that between five and 15 inches of rain fell locally. Heavy rain triggered landslides in the already unsettled landscape, further hampering efforts to locate survivors and provide relief.

At least 2,200 people have been reported dead in the earthquake and the flooding’s aftermath. With relief efforts still underway, that number may still climb. More than 12,000 people were injured, and many hundreds are still unaccounted for. Add all this to the unrest following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, and conditions were ripe for pandemonium.


Special Tactics Response

Air Force Special Tactics operator Haiti
U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operator provides security and air traffic control assistance at an airfield in the western part of Haiti. (Photo by 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo)

U.S. Southern Command announced on August 15 that Joint Task Force – Haiti had been established to provide disaster assistance to the people affected by the earthquake. On August 18, SOUTHCOM said that the 24th Special Operations Wing (SOW) had Airmen in Haiti for surveying airfields, clearing debris, and evaluating existing infrastructure to facilitate humanitarian efforts.

The 24th SOW’s team was comprised of five Combat Controllers (CCTs) and one Pararescue Jumper (PJ). Their main task was to survey the Jeremie and Les Ceyes airfields for suitability of use by humanitarian aircraft. These two airfields are located in areas cut off by earthquake damage and flooding. After clearing debris and successfully landing a C-146A on one of the fields, operators made their recommendations to Joint Task Force – Haiti, then headed out to bring relief where it was needed.