Soldiers bring fresh, clean water to Haiti
February 18, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Army News Service, Feb. 18, 2010) -- Since they arrived last month, some American Soldiers here have been saving lives by purifying and distributing clean water.
"Our mission is to make and distribute potable water, not only to our servicemembers but also to the people of Haiti," said Staff Sgt. Steven Latham, of the 82nd Water Detachment, 16th Quartermaster Company, 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 49th Group.
"We acquired a water source from the locals who run the well and the pump for us," Latham said. "We are bringing up their water, making it clean and then distributing it."
Like most resources, clean drinking water has been hard to come by after the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti Jan. 12.
"When we arrived, there was a rush on the well," he said. "We came in, and working with the owners, restored order so that people can come and get water. The people in the area seem very happy."
While the 82nd's primary mission is to support Joint Task Force - Haiti, the detachment really enjoys meeting and integrating with the locals in their neighborhood, which they do twice daily when they distribute over 3,000 gallons of clean drinking water to the community.
"When we issue out to the locals, you feel like you actually have a mission," said Spc. Melissa Jastram, a water purification specialist with the 82nd. "Issuing out to other servicemembers -- you feel like we are only supporting ourselves, but when we provide for the community, it really sets in that we are here to help them."
Jastram's not the only Soldier in her unit that feels their work is helping change lives in Haiti.
"I definitely see this as helping. The work that we are doing here make people's lives better by providing them with clean water to drink," said Spc. Latu Halafihi, also a water purification specialist with the 82nd.
The Fort Lee, Va., based detachment is working with the local owners and operators to pull raw water up from the well, push it through the Army's reverse osmosis water purification unit which filters sediment and debris and then purifies it making it safe to drink.
The trailer-based ROWPU system is a self-contained water treatment plant and can produce potable water from any water source; and at maximum capacity can purify 3,000 gallons of water per hour and provide up to 20,000 gallons of water per day.
The Soldiers here "are exceeding the standard. They got here, they knew what their mission was and they have been performing excellently", said Latham.
"I love my job and I love what we are doing here," said Latham. As Soldiers, "we've got a big piece of the pie and we are here helping these people out. We really are doing our piece, one gallon at a time."
(Spc. A. M. LaVey writes for Joint Task Force - Haiti)