Operation ESCORT

International Information

International Operation Name: Operation ESCORT

International Mission Name: Operation ESCORT

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Central America

Location: Haiti

Mission Date: 1 November 1991 - 30 March 1992

Mission Mandate: To plan the evacuation of up to 1600 Canadian nationals from Haiti.

Mission/Operation Notes: Following the swearing-in of the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 1991, a military coup d’état took place that saw the new president evacuated from the island and the United Nations impose a fuel and arms embargo. In November 1991, the country was stable but it was anticipated that the dwindling fuel stocks caused by the embargo would eventually destabilize the situation. 

In early November, the Department of External Affairs (DEA) asked DND to contact the US Department of Defence and begin planning for the evacuation of an estimated 1600 Canadian citizens from the island. Working closely with the American JTF-120 command as well as French forces, the plan, now under the Canadian designation Operation ESCORT, called for the deployment of two CC-137 aircraft for the evacuation phase, a CC-130 aircraft as required for deployment/redeployment, a six-man Airlift Control Element evacuee processing unit, three 10-man Mobile Air Movements Sections and MCC support, and a two-man service and support unit. The naval contribution was to be one replenishment ship, and three destroyers. Additionally there would be one infantry platoon for airfield security and an evacuation platoon to conduct medical and security screening and assist DEA to process evacuees. 

The plan called for the military teams to arrive (with permission from the Haitian military junta) and establish a security perimeter around the Port-au-Prince airport. American and French troops would provide security for the outer cordon with the Canadian security platoon providing security for the inner cordon and Canadian processing teams. Once an outer cordon had been established, evacuees would pass through an initial screening by American or French troops, and proceed to the inner cordon located just inside the main terminal building. 

There a team would then determine an evacuee’s country of destination, that evacuees carried no restricted material and that the evacuee was bona fide based on a second document check. The inner cordon would then direct the evacuee to the proper national screening area where they would be medically screened (and given treatment if necessary), fed and provided with an area for personal hygiene and rest until baggage and personnel were placed on the aircraft. A Padre and a Judge Advocate General representative would be made available at this time. 

Once the evacuees were processed, command was to close down the operation, clear the area, mount the aircraft and redeploy via Charleston, USA, where all evacuees would be flown for further processing. From Charleston they would then travel to their final destination. 

Though the operation was anticipated to take no more than seven days, the largest threat to the operation was expected to come from pro-Aristide factions, who upon realizing that an evacuation was taking place, would petition the evacuating forces for help in overthrowing the military government. In anticipation of this situation, each soldier would be issued with a full battle load (350 rounds of 5.56 ammunition for the C7 rifles and 600 rounds for support weapons). Heavy weapons would not be taken. 

The rules of engagement included the right to use deadly force for self-defence or when defending someone under the soldier’s protection. In the end, comprehensive rules of engagement were never issued. 

By early March 1992, the situation did not warrant the execution of the operation, and thus remained a contingency plan.

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