When Mortensen went to Pakistan after the earthquake in 2004, however, his experience was slightly different. The U.S. is not very well-liked in Pakistan, and the humanitarian aid there was done more high-profile, with the military taking an active role.
"People could see the military and the equipment digging and setting up to distribute food," said Mortensen.
Prior to the operation, Pakistanis universally disliked Americans. Afterwards, 70-80 percent thought that it was good that the U.S. was helping. One young boy even described the U.S. helicopters being used to bring in supplies as "birds of peace," recalled Mortensen.
In the other parts of the world, Mortensen believes the United States should show more of what they do. "I'd like to see the military provide more of our humanitarian aid," he said.
"We need to continue to show that we are supporting freedom, supporting democracy."' He wants to see the Iraqi government encouraged to fight the Taliban and wants a U.S. presence to remain and provide humanitarian aid.
"The average person in Iraq would still like to have peace," he said. The way to ensure that peace, he thinks, is to "keep working toward the day when they (Iraqis) can take over their own security" and assert themselves over the insurgency.
Even though he said, "It's going to be tough" to set up a secure Iraq, Mortensen has good memories of his time there in 2003. According to Mortensen, the team was well received in Iraq. They were even surrounded by children in the street at one point.
Mortensen recalls that Iraq was suffering from infrastructure problems that had been in place for a long time. All the services that people needed, including water and sewage were run down and breaking down without the means for needed repairs.
Mortensen understands, though, how difficult it can be to find stability after his work in Sudan, where OFDA went to provide shelter, water, food and sanitation for 2-3 million people in refugee camps near Darfur. The organization brought in material to build huts, gave grants to pay laborers to dig latrines, and coordinated other projects.
Mortensen and his team also organized projects to help traumatized women and children and to encourage the government to protect the people. Mortensen stated that convincing the government was the most "dicey" job, since it was the government that had driven the people out of their homes.
Mortensen estimated that $500 million was spent to assist the people in those refugee camps, and emphasized that all U.S. citizens pay part of the help given. "It is taxpayer money funding all this humanitarian aid."
This assistance was part of the fight for freedom that Mortensen believes in.
Mortensen also feels that OFDA should do more of what they're doing in Ethiopia, where they're planning a preemptive move to avoid famine, as there is now a projected food shortage.
However, he explained that it will be difficult to provide aid that will actually help in the situation, because planners have to determine how much food to give to prevent suffering without crossing the fine line into giving so much food that it undermines the economy and the livelihood of local farmers.
There are many conflicts in Africa that we don't know about, according to Mortensen. He used the Ivory Coast as an example, explaining that it used to be Africa's prime tourist destination but is now caught in an ongoing civil war.
What concerns Mortensen is that these issues aren't brought to public attention unless they turn into a massive crisis situation. He would like to see the public informed and the country exert some influence before situations reach a crisis.
In his experience in the Congo, he was unaware before he arrived of the extent of hostilities. He learned that 30-40 percent of the women had been raped. "Rape is a tool of war in Africa," he said, the goal being to produce children with a mixed tribal heritage that won't be accepted by either tribe.
In the Congo, OFDA conducted a campaign to tell women not to accept rape in an effort to alleviate this problem. However, Mortensen would prefer to see better prevention methods, including work to establish a stable government instead of combatting militia groups that run much of Africa.