The Peace Corps needs a Navy

dispatched 6 desperately needed helicopters from combat operations in Afghanistan, but with the arrival of the USS Peleliu those six will return to be replaced by 19 USMC helos (eventhough, in an unrelated incident, the captain of the Peleliu was relieved of command last weekend). Last year the disaster was in Haiti, and before then we had earthquakes and tsunamis all of which required a significant deployment of US combat capabilities in a humanitarian effort.  Sometimes these come at a cost, such as when our aircraft carriers were working with the Indonesian tsunami and we had to offload all the combat aircraft (carrier pilots need to land on a carrier every 21 days to maintain proficiency, which was nearly impossible with all the relief operations ongoing on the deck and the refusals of local governments for military aircraft to operate in their airspace). While the military does a wonderful job assisting in humanitarian efforts, it’s sometimes like calling the fire department to rescue a cat from a tree.  Is the military the most efficient resource we can send to a humanitarian crisis?  Is there a better suited federal agency or group that could provide necessary assistance? Perhaps it is time for the Peace Corps to develop a Navy. Taking a few amphibious assault vessels out of the reserve fleets and turning them over to the Peace Corps might be an interesting approach.  Staffed with Peace Corps volunteers, professional (contract) pilots, and merchant mariners, we could develop a small fleet of emergency assistance vessels that would patrol the worlds oceans providing medical assistance to impoverished lands and responding to natural disasters with their own fleet of specially suited rescue and logistics helicopters.  Without the ‘US Military’ label that goes on some operations, countries might be more willing to accept assistance.  Take the Chinese earthquake in Sichaun in 2008.  Existing Chinese military units were vastly overstretched, but national pride prevented initial requests for international assistance.  Had an amphibious ‘rescue’ vessel been offshore or in Hong Kong the response from the US could have been non-militaristic and immediate. Of course given the budget deficits and the fact that humanitarian dollars flowing to the Pentagon help to offset some of the operational expenses of the forces, I don’t foresee this happening anytime soon.  C’est la vie.]]>