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Humanitarian assistance, under the USTRANSCOM umbrella

U.S. Transportation Command and its components provide the coordination and execution of much of Hurricane Sandy support at the direction of the FEMA and NORTHCOM.

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — Members of the U.S military once again sprang into action over the past week, as Hurricane Sandy headed for, then devastated, the East Coast.

While addressing a group of reporters and concerned citizens in Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 31, President Obama said, “And one of the things that we've been able to do -- just to give you a sense of how this is an all-hands-deck approach -- we're able to get C-17s and C-130s, military transport planes, potentially, to move assets, personnel to speed up the process of getting power up and running as soon as possible.”

These military assets, as well as civilian support, are now in play and headed for areas where they are desperately needed. But where does it all come from? Who puts it all together and pulls the trigger?

U.S. Transportation Command and its components provide the coordination and execution of much of that support at the direction of the lead federal organization.

“Our job is to make sure things get to the affected area quickly once requested by U.S. Northern Command,” said Army Maj. Charles Ward, NORTHCOM joint mobility ops officer with USTRANSCOM. “The value TRANSCOM brings is that we maximize the pace of the response to alleviate suffering and help those affected get back to a normal state of life as soon as possible. At the same time, we are cognizant of limited assets, and we provide the right balance of effectiveness and efficiency.”

According to Ward, affected states go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency once they’ve exhausted their resources, and FEMA approaches NORTHCOM with their expectations for Department of Defense assistance. NORTHCOM then gives USTRANSCOM requests and sets priorities for DOD and civilian personnel and equipment movements. 

One of the largest support efforts underway is the Defense Department’s “significant airlift event” to quickly get power restoration equipment to New York, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said yesterday.

“Aircraft and crews from 12 active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases across the nation are rotating through March Air Reserve Base in Southern California, where they will pick up 10 civilian power experts, 637 short tons of supplies and equipment to support relief efforts on the East Coast,” Little said.

According to Ward, Air Mobility Command, USTRANSCOM’s airlift component, has flown in excess of two dozen sorties in support of relief efforts, including the personnel and equipment cited by Little as well as Department of Health and Human Services personnel.

Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, USTRANSCOM’s subordinate command, is supporting the effort with a Joint Public Affairs Support Element. Also, JECC’s Joint Communications Support Element is on a “prepared to deploy order” should NORTHCOM request its assistance.

Members of the “west division,” USTRANSCOM operations and plans cell responsible for the affected area, began tracking the storm just over a week ago, coincidentally, while the organizations were working together on an exercise. TRANSCOM’s role at that point was to reach out to its directorates and to notify subordinates to posture for support. Now TRANSCOM’s role is to direct mission assignments as requested.

“All USTRANSCOM directorates have been involved in some capacity with assisting in the recovery as part of our joint planning team,” said Ward. “And our components and commercial partners have been right next to us, standing ready to go based on NORTHCOM’s needs.”  The command also maintains close contact with Defense Logistics Agency, gleaning information about the amount of fuel its supplying as well as heavy vehicles and other supplies.

“We all feel for those up there who are affected,” said Ward. “The support TRANSCOM can provide gives us a sense of accomplishment and participation to help when needed.”

American Forces Press Service contributed information to this report.


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