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Humanitarian Aid in Kurdistan

The following is a portion of an interview of James Price of Death Valley Magazine. You can view the original in its entirety here. The comments in the original article got pretty heated, so be sure to check those out. Is it something about people with the name ‘James'? Regardless of what you personally think of Price, this isn't really about the man but about what his crew DVM HAST (Humanitarian Aid & Security Team) has been accomplishing in Kurdistan. While no doubt many of us have been wondering what we could possibly do (with many advocating air dropping ordnance and irritable OIF veterans), here's a piece of what DVM HAST and now La Cima World Missions have doing.
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James Price, Death Valley Magazine and Pipe Hitters who Help

A while back I had a conversation with James Price, of Death Valley Magazine fame. One of his side projects, when he isn’t shuffling around warzones (like a more debonair Bob Denard), is DVM HAST (Humanitarian Aid & Security Team, formerly DVM DART). As the name suggests, it’s all about helping people. Though DVM HAST just completed their second mission in Kurdistan, this conversation took place right after James came back from his first trip.

James and I got to spend a few minutes talking about it. After several minutes cajoling about incredibad gear we’ve both been subjected to, we got down to the serious business of DVM HAST.

Dave Merrill [DM]: Tell me how it started, the whole thing.

James Price [JP]: I’ve worked with aid groups before in the past, just as a volunteer mostly in Indonesia. I decided that once I stopped contracting I could take my unique skills and apply them. Working in the civilian sector as a contractor, you learn to work without a big support system and how to operate independently. I thought that would be good for aid groups so I formed HAST. We responded to a typhoon in the Philippines last year. We kinda used a Special Forces technique of sending in a small team, sourcing locally, utilizing local nationals, and go in and complete the mission without having to deal with an upper command structure. An issue I ran into when I volunteered with other groups, they usually had people stateside trying to tell them every single thing they had to do without complete information. You know—REMF’s. So we formed it so a team could go in, be autonomous, and sourced locally. No matter how bad a disaster is, if you have money you can get the supplies that you need for distribution. At least in my experience the key to any mission success is working with local nationals. They have the local knowledge and connections and all that. So I combined all those different aspects into one for that first DVM HAST pilot mission in the Philippines. It was a very successful mission and we did a lot of good for a relatively small amount of money.

Of course stuff with ISIS pops up going in and around Irbil. I lived in Irbil for two years. I ran missions as a security contractor and we used Irbil as our base of operations for all around Iraq. I knew the area, had connections there.

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DM: And you’re invested in the people there too.

JP: Absolutely. I really like the Kurds. They didn’t really have that xenophobic attitude towards other people or other religions. They’ve been kicked around by Saddam so they’re really not about letting other people get kicked around either. So they were going out helping people of other religions.

 That’s something that will not happen anywhere else in the Muslim world.

One of my buddies is a lieutenant in the Peshmerga and he told me, ‘Hey, I’m glad your team got to see this, to show what a real Muslim will do. Help people regardless of their religion.’ It’s not about what religion someone is to them, it’s about the people. It’s a bad situation all around [with ISIS] and I figured, I know the area, I know the people and let’s do something.

We partnered up with La Cima World Missions. They have a lot of fundraising experience that I don’t have so that helped out tremendously. I recruited guys, many of which you met before. We have David Hale, an ER nurse in Chicago who has also done aid missions before. A couple of other guys that I know and have trained also. I put together a great team. La Cima did the fundraising and put together around $42,000 for us. I went in first as an advanced party, hooked up with my local contacts, sourced the equipment we need, food, water, medical supplies, clothing, thing like that we needed. So when the team got off the plane they literally could get right to work.

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DM: You were there for ten days, right?

JP: The team was there for ten days. I was there for nineteen days. Five days before and four days after. Setup things and then to wrap everything up.

DM: Overall, what was the highlight of your mission?

JP: Just being able to help people. Using the money wisely. We accomplished a ton. The biggest highlight was through a friend of mine I was connected to a children’s hospital. Through a partnership with them we were able to provide medical care and pediatric physicians. David Hale and myself, along with others in the team, provided mobile pediatric hospitals. We could go and set up almost instantly inside a school or a camp, and in one case a parking garage. The team would go in and put it all up. Hale would perform a triage on all of the sick children. He put them into categories of immediate need and basic need. The doctors would come in and be able to provide aid. The biggest issue is that before, some doctors from the hospitals would go to the camps independently but they didn’t have money for medication or anything other than basic treatment. What we were able to do was provide that medicine. That was definitely what I’m most proud of. We were able to set up five different camps in ten days.

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There's even more at the original link. Just so you don't have to scroll back up, here it is. Since the team is now back from their second Kurdistan mission (with a trip to Cambodia in between), no doubt there will be more to come.

 




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