Military officials to deploy assessment team to Haiti

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U.S. Southern Command officials here will deploy a team of 30 people to Haiti to support U.S. relief efforts in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The team, which includes U.S. military engineers, operational planners, and a command and control group and communication specialists, will arrive in Haiti Jan. 13 on two Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft. The team will work with U.S. Embassy personnel as well as Haitian, United Nations and international officials to assess the situation and facilitate follow on U.S. military support. Other immediate response activities include; -- At first light Jan. 13, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter evacuated four critically injured U.S. Embassy staff to the Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba, hospital for further treatment. -- Elements of the Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing are deploying Jan. 13 to the international airport at Port au Prince, Haiti, to provide air traffic control capability and airfield operations. They are expected to arrive in Haiti in the afternoon. -- A Navy P-3 Orion aircraft from the Forward Operating Location at Comalapa, El Salvador, took off early Jan. 13 to conduct an aerial reconnaissance of the area affected by the earthquake. -- The Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, is under way and expected to arrive off the coast of Haiti Jan. 14. Additional Navy ships are under way to Haiti. SOUTHCOM officals are closely monitoring the situation and is working with the U.S. State Department, United States Agency for International Development and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and other national and international agencies to determine how to best respond to this crisis. SOUTHCOM officials are well versed at providing humanitarian assistance in the region. Since 2005, the command staff has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008. During that mission, U.S. military forces from USS Kearsarge and other units airlifted 3.3 million pounds of aid to communities that were devastated by a succession of major storms. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Haitian people and all those affected by this devastating earthquake," said Army Col. James Marshall, the command spokesman for SOUTHCOM.