Monday, March 28, 2016

On Military Logistics for Humanitarian Relief

On Thursday, March 24, 2016, the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class and I were honored to have Lt. Col. James Bishop, who is the Chief of Public Affairs at Westover Air Reserve Base, MA, come to speak. In addition, we had Matthew Durham, Director for Public Affairs of the Air Force Special Operations Command,  and Kenneth Hundemer, Director of Operations, Denton Amendment Program, Skyping in. Many thanks to our great Technical Support Specialist, Emid LaClaire, for standing by throughout the class to help out with technology issues.  Both Bishop and Durham had spent time in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. James Bishop also wrote for the At War blog for The New York Times and you can read just one of his blogposts here.

I urge you to read more of them.

Since one of the students in the class is in the military and is pursuing an MBA from the Isenberg School of Management, this made for a very special class session, indeed. He had also served in Afghanistan.

Mr. Durham, who was a bit delayed since there was a major accident on his commute that morning, focused on the opening up by the Air Force Special Forces team of the Port-au-Prince airport in the aftermath of the Jan 12, 2010, earthquake. Some information on this important operations can be accessed on the following link.

He told us that one of the big challenges was to decide where to park all the planes, which were bringing in personnel and materiel into Haiti. A plane was landing every 2 minutes we were told. He also mentioned how the military assisted in opening up the New Orleans airport post Hurricane Katrina. He noted how many supplies were airlifted by helicopters but also mentioned that when it was considered to airlift 10,000 soccer balls to Haiti years before with Aristide's face on them,  it was ultimately decided, after a physics calculation,  that soccer balls falling out of the sky could injure civilians, so that plan was scrapped.

He also mentioned that post the Haiti earthquake, a videographer was sent out by the military since the media coverage is so omnipresent post disasters and quality coverage is important.  He mentioned that many were just 9 meals away from dying.

There are Special Operations folks in 40 countries but they can only go where they are invited.

Mr. Hundemer, in turn, discussed how humanitarian donations are transported through the Denton Amendment program: 

Ken Hundemer appears, on page 2 in the above article as the Director of Operations.of this important, but it seems not widely known, humanitarian relief program.
Mr. Hundemer has worked for 16 years for the Denton Amendment Program, which moves humanitarian donated cargo to countries by the US military as part of the US Transportation Command. Such transports have to be approved by the State Department, USAID, and DOD. The NGO is responsible for delivering the cargo to specific military sites and must guarantee that there is a consignee upon delivery to the respective country. Interestingly, most of such cargo now goes to Haiti, the Honduras, and Nicaragua! The cargo is transported on any defense transport asset.

He emphasized that they try to do mostly airlifts since there can be problems with corruption at seaports and there is better cargo visibility during airlifts from origin node to the consignee.  There have been shipments of relief supplies to Afghanistan since 2002.

Interestingly, the size of the cargo has both lower and upper bounds in that, at minimum, 2,000 pounds can be airlifted at a time with a maximum of 100,000 pounds. Some NGOs consolidate their shipments so that they have a sufficient amount. The average time for delivery from the time that the relief items are dropped off is 36 days. The military also does its inspections and worries about the perishability of cargo.

We presented Lt. Col. James Bishop with a Professor for the Day certificate and a gift from the Isenberg School.  When I asked him how he managed in Afghanistan he said that it was through: chapel, the gym and that we had each other. I told him that will be the title of his future best-selling book.
Many, many thanks for the US military who are also so essential to humanitarian relief around the world. Your courage, strength, and stamina are simply incredible.