November 15, 2010


Keen recounts helping Haiti

Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen

In less than 50 seconds, approximately 200,000 people died.

Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen recited that statistic about the horrific nature of January's earthquake in Haiti.

Keen's speech at Goizueta Business School on Veterans Day detailed his role as commander of U.S. military relief efforts in the tiny Caribbean nation.

Keen was on hand for the Nov. 11 early-morning flag-raising on the Quad and spoke one-on-one with students, faculty, staff and veterans.

"We're especially honored to host this event on Veterans Day and pay tribute to all the men and women in uniform who have fought — and continue to fight — for noble causes around the globe," said Larry Benveniste, dean of Goizueta.

Keen, the Military Deputy Commander of U.S. Southern Command, Miami, was in Haiti when the earthquake struck. One member of his team perished in the quake.

"We could hear the collapsing of the building around us," he said. "Over 30 percent of the capital of Port-au-Prince was completely destroyed."

Keen said the military's response provided infrastructure and support to countless non-government organizations that still provide for the Haitian people. Approximately 22,000 U.S. servicemen and women were involved.

Fourteen of 16 government ministries were destroyed in the quake and, even now, according to Keen, only 2 percent of debris has been removed from the capital.

Military's assistance actually increased the ability to import supplies from pre-disaster levels. A floating port was built and a one-runway airport's capacity increased from 13 to more than 150 flights per day.

"I was asked by my bosses at the Pentagon 'what do you need?' Keen said. "My answer was 'What don't I need?'"

He also credited his soldiers for creative efforts — like working with Google to develop maps that helped identify areas of need and other crucial information.

The primary objective?

"Help everybody that comes help the Haitian people," Keen said.

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