By Sgt. 1st Class Paul C. Meeker, 241st Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentApril 14, 2011
PINEVILLE, La., April 13, 2011 -- The Louisiana National Guard will lead a U.S. Southern Command "New Horizons" training exercise in Haiti that includes National Guard, Reserve and active-duty forces from around the country, as well as units from Belize, Canada and Colombia, from late April to late June 2011.
The mission of Task Force Bon Voizen (Good Neighbor) is to build schools and clinics, and provide medical and dental services to Haitian citizens in the vicinity of Gonaives. Many Haitians migrated to the area after a devastating earthquake destroyed their homes and livelihoods, Jan. 12, 2010.
The Louisiana Guard will spearhead rotational forces of about 500 servicemembers each during four 15-day rotations in selected locales in the Gonaives region, according to 1st Lt. Cody Paulk, the task force assistant operations officer. He said each rotation will perform engineering and medical missions and will be book-ended by a base-camp construction rotation and a base-camp breakdown rotation.
The task force commander, Col. Kenneth Donnelly, who also serves as the deputy commander of the Louisiana Guard's 225th Engineer Brigade, has three priorities for the training mission:
-- The first is to support the government of Haiti's overall effort to provide necessary services to the people who migrated to the Gonaives area following the earthquake.
-- The second is to provide the local government with improved infrastructure and basic medical services by constructing one new school, two new medical clinics and staffing medical clinics.
-- The third is to provide real-time operations training for U.S. forces and the participating partner nations.
The exercise is compressed to a 60-day window, so the rotations will be on a tight schedule to get everything accomplished by the end of June, Donnelly said. He added, however, that the task force will "rise to the challenge."
"I have faith in all our participating servicemen and women that they'll get the job done and done well," Donnelly said.
At a gathering of Louisiana Guard task force personnel in late March, Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general, commended the Guardsmen for committing to the challenging mission set before them.
"I know that the task force will excel and make all of us here in Louisiana very proud," Landreneau said. "The eyes of the nation will be on you, as well as the attention of the entire U.S. military."
Preparations for the mission assumed an active state in January when participating units began pre-mobilization training and medical reviews at their home stations, procedures that are standard practice for U.S. military forces whenever they deploy overseas.
Load-out operations began in March with the line-haul delivery of equipment and supplies to the Port of Cape Canaveral, Fla. From there, shipping operations began on April 1, with the first loads arriving in Port-au-Prince April 5.
This is the second year that the Louisiana Army National Guard has been asked to lead a New Horizon's mission to Haiti. Last year's mission, Task Force Kout Men (Helping Hands), worked on four different school construction sites and staffed medical and dental clinics in the operational area from June - September 2010.