Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti vs Sri Lanka

The question of whether DART was deployed quickly enough in 2004 was brought up here, as CC notes here. As it happens, in 2007 I interviewed an officer who served on that DART team, and talked at length with him about the mission.

Of course, it's all in the book, but I thought it might be germane to provide the relevant portion of the interview transcript here.

We landed there on New Year’s Day, and the tsunami happened Boxing Day. So we were in theatre in less than a week. Obviously we were in the capital city.

One of the problems with the DART, and I don’t want to get into the political aspects, is that the way that DART works is it has to be invited in by the country. So if the country doesn’t know what the Canadian DART is all about they don’t know to ask for it. So you have to educate the government and say, this is what we can provide you. And they go, oh, how do we get that. You have to talk to our high commissioner who has to talk to our government to say, the Government of Sri Lanka has officially requested that DART be deployed. Okay, we’ll do that right away.

They get on with that kind of thing. We weren’t convincing them that we should go, we were telling them this is what we can do, if you ask for it. So a lot of people think that we only tell the government of Sri Lanka that it’s important for Canada that we deploy DART, so we want to convince you to send our people. That’s not how it works at all. Third World countries aren’t up on the disaster abilities of First World countries. So then we did operate fairly quickly and efficiently after that.

It just so happens that after it was looked at because a lot of the senior government people were on leave, on Christmas leave during that time. So trying to get a hold of them and keep them in the loop about what’s going on can be sometimes difficult. So we were in there pretty quickly.

Fortunately [note 1] argued that we needed to sent the whole team in there, in case they wanted to deploy the DART, they don’t want to wait for more people to come, they want to be able to launch them right away. And fortunately they were all there, the government of Canada said yes, commit to DART.

So that's how it looked to a career soldier under the troop-hatin', DART-messin'-up Liberal government.

[note 1] - the name referenced here was not understood by the transcriber, so I'm not sure who it refers to -- the PM, CDS, Foreign Affairs minister (Lloyd Graham?), or someone else. I only have the raw transcripts at hand and not the actual audio files. If anyone cares I'll find them and update this.


deBeauxOs said...

Predictably the ReformaTory Attack Parrots™© won't want to burden their spin and sound bites with the facts and a reality check.

CC said...

M@, I'm curious about the timeline. Your interview claims that the DART team arrived at the Sri Lanka tsunami site on New Year's Day, yet this article claims that the Canadian DART team didn't even leave Canada until Jan. 6.


M@ said...

I know that this officer was part of the team that landed and set things up for the larger mission. I suspect the timeline is that his team landed, found the appropriate space and got the appropriate facilities set up, talked to the local authorities, and prepared the ground for the larger mission. Then when the full DART deployment arrived on January 6, they could hit the ground running.

That's the way these things work, of course. If you try to put a big team on the ground right away, you're adding to, not diminishing, the chaos.

I also suspect that the time from Dec 26 to Jan 1 was spent figuring out where the DART could and should be deployed, and doing the diplomatic dance that my interviewee described to get it deployed. That's another thing that is usually invisible to the general public.

The situations aren't all that equivalent -- we know right off the bat which country to talk to about providing our aid, the affected area is much smaller, and the travel time is much shorter and less problematic. To someone who can comprehend the intricacies of a situation like this, it's easy to see that the missions will be quite different.

For people whose foremost skills don't include considering facts or thinking critically -- well, they can comment on Gerrits' blog, I guess...

liberal supporter said...

I found a blog by a commercial pilot which was originally all about questioning the C-17 purchase in the first place. Now he has some interesting insights, for example wondering why a helicopter is being sent on the C-17 when they have some there already, and since it is not a sea disaster, why do they need search and rescue since they know where the people are, just look for collapsed buildings. Instead that space on the plane could be used for rescue dogs and heavy engineering equipment to move the concrete.

Based on some of his earlier posts, this is the ideal mission for the C-17, since it can't carry its maximum payload of 77 tonnes over the Atlantic (5700km) unrefueled. With its maximum loaded range being 5200km it can do Haiti (2800km) fully loaded and possibly make it back empty without refueling.

He cites some US figures of places they can go and how much they can carry without refueling:
50 tonne to Irelan
40 tonne to Germany
13-18 tonne to Iraq (Hercules sized loads).

liberal supporter said...

Given the distance to Iraq is 9700km, reaching Thailand (13500km) or Sri Lanka (14000km) would likely be not possible without refueling someplace. That requires a lot more arranging than jump on the plane and go.