The U.S. is running a training exercise to test new concepts for quickly setting a communications system in a combat or disaster zone, in order to provide relief for the civilian population. The need for this was seen in Iraq in 2003, and some of the experience gained was used again in late 2004. Using the military for disaster relief has become popular with the U.S. Department of Defense, especially after all the good will generated when American sailors and marines quickly went to work in Indonesia after the earthquake and tidal waves last December. The new exercise, Strong Angel II, will be conducted in a remote part of Hawaii this Summer. One of the goals of the exercise is to find out what software is needed, and can be stored on a laptop computer, to handle all the data procession and communications needs for disaster relief in a peacekeeping situation. One of the more potent peacekeeper weapons is taking care of injured, and starving, civilians. The good will generated goes a long way towards diminishing the armed violence in the area.
"Project Strong Angel" was originally an experiment in Civil-Military Operations for Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief. It was part of the RIMPAC 2000 Naval exercise, which was one of a series of annual training efforts conducted by the Pacific Rim countries. Strong Angel included military, government, international, and non-government organizations. It took place in Hawaii June 10-15, 2000. The purpose was to enable the military, government, international (UN, etc.), and NGO communities to get to know each other and to try to develop common procedures, get familiar with each other and test cutting-edge information technology in an austere environment. The organizations (the U.S. military, American Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Program, and UNICEF) had only rarely worked together in the past. As a consequence, their diverse structures, cultures and missions challenge their ability to efficiently communicate and coordinate. Strong Angel provided a chance for these organizations to improve collaboration and the delivery of services to populations in need during future crises.
The lessons learned during both Strong Angel exercises will be available to civilian relief agencies. Such organizations are no longer as leery about working with the military. For decades, the civilian relief agencies avoided cooperation with the military relief efforts, lest the aid workers be seen as taking sides in situations where there were still several armed factions in the area. But it turned out that, no matter what the aid groups did, they would be taken advantage of by the armed groups.