As I write on Wednesday afternoon (EST), the scenes of chaos, death, and destruction in Haiti are only now beginning to be visible to the outside world through media. As horrific and heart-rending as those scenes are, they serve a purpose in letting other nations comprehend the magnitude of the crisis and the urgency required in lending direct aid. The U.S. military is uniquely positioned to contribute.
What a difference a day makes: barely 24 hours ago, several hours before the earthquake struck, the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) was cranking up its nuclear engines and setting a peaceful course out of Hampton Roads at the base of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. At long last after completing a complex overhaul and new sea trials, she was heading south, to make the South America turn and return to homeport in San Diego as part of the Pacific Fleet.
Then the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck, just a few hours later. Turns out the Carl Vinson was fortuitously located to respond immediately. Just this afternoon, U.S. Southern Command announced that the Carl Vinson is being rerouted directly to Haiti, and will arrive offshore tomorrow morning (Thursday). That’s not the only aid being immediately deployed, according to an account this afternoon in Military Times:
The command confirmed additional Navy ships are underway to Haiti, but did not specify what vessels would be going. The command, based in Miami, also deployed a team of 30 people to Haiti to work with U.S. Embassy personnel as well as Haitian, U.N. and international officials to assess the situation and facilitate follow-on U.S. military support, according to the press release. The team includes military engineers, operational planners, a command and control group and communication specialists. They will arrive in Haiti today on two C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Elements of the Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing were deploying to the international airport at Port-au-Prince to provide air traffic control capability and airfield operations. They are expected to arrive in Haiti on Wednesday afternoon.
Early Wednesday morning, Coast Guard helicopters evacuated four critically injured U.S. Embassy staff to hospital at Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba, for further treatment.
A U.S. P-3 Orion from the Forward Operating Location at Comalapa, El Salvador, also conducted aerial reconnaissance of the affected area.
I have written before on the “deployable soft power” which aircraft carriers represent, including the technology they carry (“The Nimitz-Class Data Center?”). This carrier may wind up illustrating that lesson through its use of new media, dynamically communicating its role in the response to mass tragedy.
How to follow the Carl Vinson to Haiti: For some old-school background info on the Carl Vinson, there’s a good basic page on Wikipedia. If you’re a big-ship enthusiast, there’s also a website maintained by Northrop Grumman focusing on the ship’s complex overhaul over the past few years, with photos and video, and of course the official Navy page for the ship, maintained by its own public affairs office.
But the ship’s public affairs folks also have become engaged in new media, and I’ll point out that the Facebook page for the carrier is much more up-to-date and lively than the static website. I’ve become a Facebook “fan” of the ship. There’s nothing on the wall there yet about Haiti, but I would anticipate that it will dominate very very soon.
Even more dynamic is the official Twitter account for the Carl Vinson, or “@CVN70” – their first tweet posted last summer. That feed should begin to reflect ops in the Haiti humanitarian mission as well. US Southern Command has its own very active official Twitter account, “@southcomwatch,” a good one to follow as well.
Completely aside from the humanitarian value of rapidly vectoring American aid resources to a neighbor in crisis, the U.S. response to the Haitian earthquake will feature real-world testing for the use of new technologies by the State Department, Departnment of Defense, analogous elements of other nations, and international relief organizations.
Many will be following virtually… our prayers and contributions better informed as a consequence.
Filed under: Government, Society, Technology Tagged: | aid, aircraft carrier, Carl Vison, carrier, CVN70, earthquake, Facebook, gov20, Government, haiti, humanitarian, mil20, military, naval, Navy, newmedia, Nimitz, relief, ship, social media, social software, socmed, supercarrier, Twitter, USN