It’s almost as if the multi-national team of Haitians, Colombians and Americans, who began working less than one week ago to offload humanitarian cargo inbound from Colombia, have been working together for years.
The complex effort of transferring cargo from the anchored Colombian Armada Navy ship, Cartagena Indias, to two alternating U.S. Army landing craft utility vessels, the Matamoras and the Hobkirk, near a small port at Killick, Haiti seemed like a routine effort to the novice mariner. Representatives from all organizations credit teamwork, cooperation and motivation as the catalyst for the successful operation which ended April 22. And no matter which language was being spoken, be it Creole, French, Spanish, English or a mangled combination of all four, everyone involved seemed to agree that the cooperation was “excelente.”
Colombian Armada ship Commander Jose Guillermo Rodriguez says a chance meeting at Port-au-Prince’s main port with U.S. Navy and Army officers began the discussion of a possible joint cooperative mission between the two allies. Rodriguez, skipper of the Cartagena de Indias, a ship used by Colombia primarily for counter drug patrols off the South American country’s coast, said the partnership began forming during the initial encounter. “As soon as I met the officers from the [U.S.] Navy and Army, we began discussing how we could help each other,” Rodriguez said. “After further discussion, we determined they could help us offload cargo from the Cartagena and get it ashore to waiting representatives from the Colombian Red Cross.” Rodriguez added that the partners between the various organizations were motivated and committed to the effort.
“The Colombian Red Cross in conjunction with the Haitian Red Cross and your Soldiers [U.S. Army] came with the LCU of the Army â€¦and every day they came to help unload,” Rodriguez said.
The Hobkirk’s vessel master, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Willis Allen, says the small, damaged port facility at Killick isn’t conducive to a ship the size of the Cartagena. Allen says his vessel, with a flat bottom and shallow draft, is capable of pulling up right to the beach if needed. This quality, unique to LCU-type boats, allowed him to complete those final legs to shore that the Cartagena previously had to do with its utility skiffs.
“We moor alongside the Colombian shipâ€¦ we tie up, they take a crane and put a gang way down to our vessel and we just start a chain and start the food down to the vessel,” Allen said.
Allen joined the consensus of opinions in saying there was excellent cooperation between all the agencies involved.
“It shows a lot of hospitality between two countries to make things happen,” Allen said. He also said the Haitian workers, the Colombian Red Cross and the crew of the Cartagena, along with his Soldiers, worked extremely well and efficient together. Prior to the use of the two LCU’s, the Colombians off-loaded a load similar in size but that effort took 18 days.
“It is my understanding that when they unloaded the first shipment they had to unload everything to small boats all by themselves by hand.” said Sgt. 1st Class John Gaviria, who coincidentally is Colombian as well as the Hobkirk’s 1st mate. “The experience that I’ve had with the Colombian Armada, the Colombian Army, and the volunteers of the Colombian Red Cross has been excellent.”
Representatives from the Colombian Army, who helped with transportation on the cargo was offloaded, also shared similar sentiments. Colombian Army Maj. Diego Pastrana, second commander, equivalent to an executive officer, of the Disaster Awareness and Prevention Battalion, said their job has required a lot of effort taking into account that they could have used some much-needed resources. “Here, the American Army has been the fundamental logistical part to all the support necessary,” Pastrana said. “At this moment, we’ve been supported greatly and thanks to that, we are able to continue our support for the Haitian people.”
Jose Estrada Charis, director of area relief for the Colombian Red Cross says all the agencies involved formed a strong team. “Responding to emergencies and natural disasters often create a fraternal bond between various nations in the world involved,” Charis said. “The Colombian Army and Armada [Navy] with the American Army have formed a team with the Colombian Red Cross.”
“The humanitarian supplies that the Colombian Red Cross is providing to the Haitian Red Cross as well as the interaction with the American Army and that great friendship and great team that we’ve now created has created an excellent rapport between us all,” Rodriguez, said. “As the commander of this ship, it is one of my hopes that all our crew remember the images we see on land and learn to better appreciate what we have back in Colombia because, in reality, we all live in paradise.”
Story by Capt. Jose Emperador
Table of contents for Haiti quake aftermath
- Two months after the Haitian earthquake
- Haiti – a nation of smiles and struggles
- The damage from the Haitian earthquake
- Who is in charge in Haiti
- The current situation in Haiti
- What is the best way to help the Haitians?
- Air National Guard members honor Hotel Montana dead
- Haitian homeless still homeless
- Army landing craft aid Columbian Navy in Haiti
- Louisiana National Guard to lead assistance exercise in Haiti
- ND Guard finishes Haiti mission
- Haiti is still a disaster area, even without Anderson Cooper
- Just a roof over their heads
- United States military continues Haiti aid mission
- Marines coming home to Haiti
- Haiti – Two Years After the Earthquake