G&A Podcast – Episode 8
6.10.18 – Haiti 2010 Earthquake: 40 Seconds that changed Haiti Forever. Ambassador Kenneth Merten and Lt. General Ken Keen on leading the U.S. relief effort and U.S. interests today. How senior U.S. diplomatic and military leaders responded to the 2010 earthquake which killed over 200,000 people: The value of coordination, communication and relationships.
Ambassador Kenneth Merten: Kenneth Merten has been serving in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs since August 17, 2015. On January 20, 2017, he assumed responsibility as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, with responsibility for Haiti, Canada, Caribbean Affairs and the Office of Policy, Planning and Coordination in the same Bureau. A two-time Ambassador, he was most recently the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, from 2012 to August 2015, and prior to that served as the United States Ambassador to Haiti from 2009 to July 2012. He also served as a Deputy Executive Secretary to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and earlier to U.S. Secretary of State Rice. He was awarded the 2011 Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy for his extraordinary leadership in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In serving as Ambassador to Haiti, Mr. Merten oversaw the United States Government’s on-the-ground efforts to provide immediate relief after the earthquake through a presence of 8,000 U.S. military personnel as well as hundreds of other professionals drawn from many other U.S. Government agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development. In the days after the earthquake, he also oversaw the largest evacuation of American citizens since World War II.
Mr. Merten’s overseas assignments include the U.S. Embassy in Paris, the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, the U.S. Embassy in Bonn at the time of German unification, and three tours at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Mr. Merten’s Washington experience includes two assignments in the State Department Operations Center, which responds to unfolding international emergencies, ensures senior State Department officials are kept abreast of breaking events, and supports the daily work and travel of the Secretary of State. He also has served in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and on the Cuba Desk, and worked for the Special Advisors on Haiti in 1993-1994.
Kenneth Merten holds a B.A. from Miami University in Ohio, and a Masters in Public Administration from American University in Washington, D.C. Studies at the Université d’Aix-Marseille in France and at Karl Franzens Universität in Austria complement his other academic work. He gave the commencement address to over 10,000 attendees at Miami University in May 2010 and received an honorary Doctorate from the University as well. In July 2012, Ambassador Merten was decorated by Haiti’s President, Michel Martelly, with the Grande Croix of Honor and Merit, the fourth foreign diplomat to receive that honor in over 200 years of Haiti’s independence.
Ambassador Merten was born in St. Louis, Missouri and considers Hudson, Ohio his hometown.
Lieutenant General Ken Keen: Lieutenant General (Ret) P. K. (Ken) Keen is a native of Hyden, Kentucky. Following graduation as a distinguished military graduate from Eastern Kentucky University, he was commissioned as a 2LT in the Infantry in December 1974. LTG (Ret) Keen retired from active duty on 1 March 2013.
LTG (Ret) Keen is currently the Associate Dean of Leadership Development and a faculty member in Organization and Management for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, Georgia. In this role, he manages a school-wide leadership development program for the MBA programs, which includes teaching crisis leadership; developing high performing teams; implementing a Coaching Fellows Program; and coaching in the Advanced Leadership Academy.
LTG (Ret) Keen served 38 years in the Army with over 11 years working and living abroad in the Republic of Panama, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, Germany, Egypt, and Pakistan. Ken has extensive leadership experience of conventional and special operations units as well as the interagency environment. Ken commanded a SFOD-A team in Special Forces, a company and Battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division, Joint Task Force – Haiti, following the Jan 2010 earthquake, as well as serving on 3 U.S. Embassy Country Teams leading all military forces in Colombia, Haiti, and Pakistan during crisis periods. He participated in Operation JUST CAUSE in 1989 as the Assistant S3 of the 75th Ranger Regiment; commanded a Ranger Task Force during Operation DESERT STORM in 1990 as part of a Joint Special Operations Command while serving as the S3 of the 1st Ranger Battalion; was the Executive Officer and Commander of 1st Ranger Battalion; and was the 11th Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment from 1999 to 2001.
LTG (Ret) Keen is a graduate of the Brazilian Command and General Staff College, Defense Language Institute – Portuguese Course, and the University of Florida’s Master of Arts in Latin American Studies program. Having served as a Special Forces and foreign area officer in Latin America, Ken speaks conversational Portuguese and Spanish.
LTG (Ret) Keen also serves on several non-profit Boards in support of military veterans and international humanitarian organizations. Ken is on the Board of Trustees for the U.S. Army War College; on the Board of Visitors for the Western Hemisphere of Security Cooperation; and a Board member of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization. LTG (Ret) Keen also serves as the President of PKKEEN Consulting, LLC, and in this role he has been an Executive Coach for over 120 senior military and business executives over the last 4 years. In 2016, LTG (Ret) Keen was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame and the National Reserve Officer Training Corps Hall of Fame.
LTG (Ret) Keen has been married to Mary Ellen Hume for over 43 years. They have a daughter, Marta Keen, a Junior at Georgia State University; two sons Dr. Ryan Keen and Jonathan Keen, who is married to Jennifer Wu; and 2 grandchildren.