Lesson learning in the US Army – example from Haiti

Army learning is not just about fighting battles – here’s an example from disaster response

Operation Unified Response
Marines hand out rations in Haiti, by Marines Relief, on Flickr

In 2010, the US Army was called in to provide humanitarian aid, including food and shelter, after a category 7 earthquake in Haiti. This article by the US contracting commend, entitled Lessons learned and used during Haiti deployment described how lesson learning made this a more efficient and effective process.

The article describes how, at the height of the response, the US Army supplied more than 15 million meals  in a 10-day period to the Haitian population, as well as setting up distribution points for families to receive boxes and bags of rice, beans and cooking oil. All of this required a supply chain and contracting and purchasing activities, and by the end of the mission, the Expeditionary Contracting Command had created more than 380 contracting actions valued at almost $12 million. Of course this supply chain needed to be slick and well organised, and to have learned from the past.

“We took advantage of a lot of lessons learned from previous deployments. We didn’t do these types of things early on in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. However, we learned those lessons and brought these capabilities to Haiti early on,” said Brig. Gen. Joe Bass, commander, Expeditionary Contracting Command. “We were very proactive from the beginning, deploying the right personnel mix needed to provide quality assurance, legal, policy and other areas where we could address issues on the front end rather than after they’ve been done.

Lessons included

  • the personnel which needed to be deployed with the first troops, 
  • the need to set up a support centre in the US, 
  • the need for review and decision making boards in Haiti, 
  • creation of “pre-positioned deployable equipment packages”, and 
  • the correct level of decision making authority for procurement orders of different value from $100 thousand to $1 million.

The Haiti organisation did not just learn lessons from the past, they created new lessons to help future operations.

“Learning from the past helped us deploy quicker and smarter,” Bass said. “Just as we gathered lessons learned from previous deployments, we have gathered some from the Haiti deployment that should help us the next time we have to deploy. Moving forward means reviewing what we’ve done and how we have done it in the past, then reviewing it again and constantly using those lesson to better ourselves with each new challenge”

This is a great example of an organisation using lesson learning to continuously improve operations. 

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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