‘I know the humanitarian assistance–disaster relief capabilities of a DDG.” I have forgotten the name of the officer who e-mailed this sentence to me. Those words could have been written by any one of thousands of U.S. Navy officers. I bear him no ill will—but he was wrong.
On 13 January 2010, our ship, the USS Higgins (DDG-76) was making best speed for Haiti. We had been tasked to provide humanitarian assistance–disaster relief (HA/DR) to that country following the earthquake of 12 January. As the name “destroyer” implies, the Flight II DDGs were not designed or constructed with humanitarian missions in mind. They were built to be a sword, not a plowshare. As such, the single briefing-slide answer to HA/DR capabilities includes a lot of white space, with water production and helicopter refueling as the major competencies. My fellow naval officer and I were engaged in an e-mail conversation as to what our tasking would be once we arrived on station. In the event, we proceeded to our assigned station to the west of Gonâve Island, approximately 75 miles from Port-au-Prince.