Haiti task force focuses on engineering, medical missions
Louisiana National Guard Soldiers with the 1020th Engineer Company from Marksville, La., pour concrete for the foundation of the New Horizons – Haiti 2010 Mandrin school site, June 22. New Horizons provides an opportunity for the U.S. forces to train in a real-life environment by being the medical providers at the medical assistance sites and the engineers at the construction sites.

ARLINGTON, Va. (July 12, 2010) -- Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen assigned to Joint Task Force New Horizons have made major progress on their engineering and medical missions in Haiti, the task force commander said today.

Col. Michael Borrel told participants in the DoD Bloggers Roundtable that the task force is scheduled to complete the construction of four schools and 10 medical readiness and training exercises (MEDRETE) by Sept. 18.

"We have four project sites currently underway," said Maj. Chuck Hudson, the officer-in-charge of the engineering mission. "We anticipate completion of [two] of our project sites by the end of July, which include a roofing project and a school."

The two other school projects are scheduled to be complete by Aug. 15, he said.

"The system of construction that we're utilizing is the new-form system," said Hudson. "The system uses a reinforced concrete design with a steel framed and steel corrugated roof."

"It's a much stronger system and better technology than any of the other systems utilized in Haiti."

This new construction will be able to better withstand the elements during hurricane season.

On the medical side, Borrel, who is a member of the Louisiana National Guard, said four MEDRETE sites have been completed and that those sites have treated over 20,000 Haitian patients.

"Today we began another 10-day MEDRETE mission," said Air Force Col. Thomas Steinbrunner, the officer-in-charge of the medical readiness and training exercise. "Our team consists of medical providers in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women's health, dentists and optometrists."

He added that the patients receive public health education as well as medications.

"We're a primary care site, so for patients who require more serious care we utilize the local Haitian system, such as the local hospital and the more advanced hospital in GonaAfA-ves," Steinbrunner said. "So far we've seen a lot of skin diseases and parasitic-borne illnesses."

In addition to using stronger construction designs in the new buildings, the National Guard is also prepared to provide additional support should another major weather event, such as a hurricane, affect the people of Haiti.

"Hurricane season is upon us," said Borrel, "and in the event of any type of severe weather we could be directed by Southern Command and have a change of mission, which would require us to provide search-and-rescue, assessments of roads and provide limited medical assistance."

"We do have aircraft available to us and could put them into action once the weather passed," he said.

About 500 Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen have conducted humanitarian operations for the past month in the GonaAfA-ves area of Haiti.

"The U.S. forces here in Haiti are doing a tremendous job," said Borrel, "and even though we are only a small [task force], we are doing some very tangible things and truly helping the people of Haiti."

Page last updated Tue July 13th, 2010 at 06:29