A Haiti hero

A Haiti hero

PHHP honors U.S. military leader of Haiti disaster relief

By Jill Pease

Lt. Gen. Ken Keen served as the commander of Joint Task Force Haiti, leading the largest U.S. military operation in support of a foreign natural disaster./Photo by Jesse S. Jones

In September the College of Public Health and Health Professions honored Lt. Gen. P. K. (Ken) Keen, the leader of the U.S. military’s operation in Haiti following the January earthquake.

Keen, who received a master’s degree in Latin American studies from UF in 1986, is the military deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command. At a lecture for PHHP students and faculty, Keen described his experience directing the largest and longest overseas U.S. military disaster response.

Factors that contributed to the success of the U.S. military’s response included close collaboration between the military and non-government agencies, and President Obama’s swift declaration of full support for the relief effort, Keen said.

“Our military immediately turned every asset we had available toward Haiti,” he said. “Literally we were turning aircraft carriers around overnight, within hours, heading them to Haiti.”

Lt. Gen. Ken Keen spoke to students at UF Sept. 24.

Keen has provided invaluable assistance to the college’s “Better Tomorrow for Haiti” team, said Dean Michael G. Perri. With Keen’s help, team members traveled to Haiti within a week of the earthquake to provide medical care and supplies. Keen has supported the team’s ongoing efforts by helping to facilitate a vaccination program in Leogane, Haiti, and introducing team members to key government officials.

“From chaos you brought order,” Perri told the general when presenting him with a plaque on behalf of the college. “You brought relief to suffering. And probably most importantly, there was a lot of fear and despair and through your efforts and leadership you brought hope back to the people of Haiti.”