1,000 Courses. 25,000 Trained. One Mission.

In honor of Military Appreciation Month, we give special thanks to the thousands of military members who have supported our disaster responses, and celebrate a major milestone in our work together.

U.S. Marines and Nepalese soldiers unload USAID relief supplies after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Photo credit: Cpl. Isaac Ibarra, U.S. Marine Corps

When natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes strike, critical infrastructure — airports, roads, and bridges — are often heavily damaged or destroyed. They’re the very lifesaving arteries needed to deliver aid to people in need. It’s in these instances, when civilian transportation isn’t an option, that we can turn to the U.S. military to help support our humanitarian efforts.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance responds to an average of 65 disasters in more than 50 countries every year. Approximately five to 10 percent of these responses involve support from the U.S. military. Photos credit: USAID/OFDA and U.S. Department of Defense

In the last year alone, the U.S. Department of Defense has supported USAID responses to Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, the Indonesia earthquake and tsunami, Afghanistan drought, and the Venezuela regional crisis. In each of these responses, the U.S. military provided logistics and airlift support, enabling humanitarian cargo and staff to reach areas affected by crises.

But this isn’t where our relationship begins. Year round, we work with our military colleagues to improve coordination and understanding of how the civilian and military portions of the U.S. government can effectively work together to save lives. A major part of this effort is USAID’s Joint Humanitarian Operations Course (JHOC) which we created in 2004, just for this purpose. Recently, it hit a major milestone: 1,000 classes completed!

USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick speaks at the 1,000th Joint Humanitarian Operations Course on February 6. Photos courtesy: USAID

Since the course began 15 years ago, approximately 25,000 U.S. military personnel have been trained in more than 30 countries — giving them the foundation to hit the ground running when disasters strike.

“During a disaster relief or humanitarian operation, it’s important to know the capabilities of all the players and agencies and the most optimal way they can work together. This course gives us the information to put together a winning team.”
- U.S. Air Force Logistician Randy Austin
During the 15 years that USAID has been offering its Joint Humanitarian Operations Course (JHOC), 25,000 military personnel have been trained in 30 countries around the world. Photos credit: USAID and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg, U.S. Navy

The JHOC has been critical to the success of many of our responses. Because of this course, ground zero of a disaster isn’t where USAID’s experts meet our military counterparts for the first time.

Reflecting on the 2015 Nepal earthquake response in Liaison magazine’s spring 2016 issue, U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Paul J. Kennedy explained how most members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) had taken JHOC, or had worked with USAID during military exercises and previous responses. “This common working relationship allowed the JTF to operate close to instantly and seamlessly…. Working with the international humanitarian community prior to the next disaster will speed the saving of lives.”

More than 215,000 people were affected by the 2018 Indonesia earthquake and tsunami. Photo credit: Adi Hutomo, World Vision

Similarly, after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami struck Indonesia in September 2018, the support of the military was critical. Over the course of three weeks, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command flew nearly 50 missions to deliver more than 594 metric tons of relief supplies, transport more than 100 aid workers, and evacuate more than 300 Indonesians displaced by the earthquake.

Al Dwyer, the USAID disaster expert leading our Indonesia response, credited the U.S. armed forces, saying “I want to thank [them] personally. We couldn’t have pulled off this mission without them.”

Video courtesy: Master Sgt. Michael Davis, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As crises are increasing in frequency and magnitude, USAID and the U.S. military will have to build upon this strong foundation and history of cooperation to ensure that the United States can continue to respond efficiently and effectively to disasters, wherever we’re needed.

Thanks again to our U.S. military partners, and here’s to 1,000 more courses.

If you are a member of the U.S. military and are interested in the JHOC, please email jhoc@usaid.gov.

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