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IRAQ COMPLEX EMERGENCY

For the Iraq conflict, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assembled the largest ever U.S. humanitarian rapid response team and positioned stockpiles of emergency supplies and commodities to ensure that emergency humanitarian relief was readily available for the Iraqi people. Thanks to months of thorough planning and the distribution of emergency supplies by U.S. and international humanitarian organizations, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq that many were predicting did not materialize.

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The Iraq Conflict provided a unique challenge to the USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in that for the first time they were able to prepare specifically for and in advance of a humanitarian emergency. A major component of the preparations involved enhanced training for USG employees expected to take part in the response including those belonging to the Forest Service International Program's Disaster Assistance Support Program (DASP). In addition to the training received by its permanent staff, DASP initiated an augmented training regime for BLM and FS employees in the program to ensure all detailers would have the required training prior to deployment. The first five detailers were put through the requisite classes/training in May 2003, and the number of deployable and qualified DASPers continues to grow thanks to this commitment.

Another aspect of the preparations and actualization of the response included the deployment and staffing of Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) components to several countries within the Middle East. One such team that was originally based in Turkey but eventually moved into northern Iraq was lead by Ron Libby, a DASP Disaster Response Specialist. Once in northern Iraq, the team began assessing humanitarian needs. They were responsible for providing information and making programmatic recommendations for disaster response activities to the core DART, based in Kuwait City. The northern Iraq team coordinated with representatives from other non-governmental and international organizations, the United Nations and Coalition Civil Affairs forces in northern Iraq to ensure that needs were being addressed. Ron returned to the United States on June 6, after a 90 day deployment.

A Forest Service logistics specialist from the Sequoia National Forest in California, Steve MacLaurin, completed a six week assignment from June 8, 2003 to July 26, 2003 serving as a DART Logistics Officer, based in Kuwait City. He coordinated the transport of humanitarian aid shipments from stockpiles in Kuwait and elsewhere to locations within Iraq, in response to assessments and requests from other DART components working in Iraq. Steve, a Hotshot Captain by day, is but one example of the many trained and experienced Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) personnel who can be called upon to provide assistance to DASP and OFDA in responding to emergency humanitarian assistance needs throughout the world.

DASP also provided OFDA with personnel resources assigned to various positions in Washington DC, in support of the USG disaster responses in Iraq. This support included personnel assigned to the Washington-based Iraq Response Management Team (RMT), logistics specialists assigned to the OFDA Logistics Unit, and Geographic Information Support (GIS) specialists assigned to OFDA's GIS and Cartographic Unit, etc. For the Iraq RMT alone, DASP supplied multiple detailers from the BLM and the FS filling the roles of Communication and Records Recorder and the Logistic Coordinator. Over 190 days of service was provided to support the humanitarian effort in Iraq.

The expense of this support is borne by DASP, which is funded through an interagency agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. The FS and BLM home units are providing the expertise in support of these international humanitarian efforts, but are not expending funds intended for domestic programs.


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