By Kimberly FritzFebruary 12, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 11, 2010) -- A second wave of Fort Lee Soldiers made their final preparations for deployment to Haiti as a potentially record breaking snowstorm plagued much of the east coast.
The 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion began their journey to Haiti, Feb. 6. The unit is one of two battalions deploying to provide logistical support to Joint Task Force Haiti. Seventy-two Soldiers from the battalion's Headquarters Company, the 111th Quartermaster Co., the 16th QM Co. and the 148th QM Co., 240th QM Bn. flew out of Langley Air Force Base Feb.7, to join the collection and assessment teams deployed in the initial disaster relief effort. Additional Soldiers from the deploying units traveled Tuesday and Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Marc Thoreson, 530th CSSB commander said this mission is very different from the 49th QM Group's typical rotations for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
"This is probably the first time the 49th Group and the 530th has deployed on such a short notice with full capabilities," Thoreson said. "It was probably a first in many respects when we flew the mortuary affairs team with equipment on a C-17. This is a relatively big footprint for us."
When the mortuary affairs assessment team arrives in Haiti, they will have full capabilities of setting up operations within three hours, which Thoreson says the group hasn't done recently.
"We are accustomed to the planned rotations where we have a hand off with the previous units," he said. "That is the biggest contrast with our typical mortuary affairs rotations. It is a very different mission and it's good for us to hone our skills to make sure we are still tracking the full spectrum, as opposed to our stability operations in OIF, OEF."
The group has a total of 89 pieces of rolling stock, including reverse osmosis water purification units, laundry systems, shower units, fuel storage tanks and 10 fuel tankers.
The units' missions include water production and distribution, fuel storage and distribution, facilitation of the United Nations World Food Programme and recovery of Americans lost during the earthquake, Thoreson said.
Currently there are approximately 16 distribution sites set up to facilitate food delivery to the Haitian people.
"Our mission once we are on the ground will be to facilitate getting the food out to the distribution sites," Thoreson said. "We see our mission as managing the logistical hub."
While there are internal and external elements to the mission, the 49th QM Group Soldiers will center mostly on supporting the JTF-H so the disaster relief mission can go forward.
In addition to distributing aid for Haitians left without the basic needs for survival, the mortuary affairs specialists will be working to identify, process and return the remains of American citizens.
"It is a complex situation when there are remains of local nationals, foreign nations and U.S. citizens," Thoreson said. "There are numerous sites where U.S. citizens are believed to have been when the quake struck, one being the Hotel Montana. Every site is treated separately and distinctly with regards to the procedures for recovery and search and recovery and processing of the remains."
If it is a U.S. citizen, the remains are turned over to the mortuary affairs teams who are on the ground in Haiti and then they are transported to the air field for processing and then returned to the United States.
The deployment is expected to last six to nine months.