Haiti Task Force Focuses on Engineering, Medical Missions

ARLINGTON, Va. – 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.

Joint Task Force New Horizons
Louisiana National Guard soldiers with the 1020th Engineer Company from Marksville, La., pour concrete for the foundation of a school site in Mandrin, Haiti, June 22, 2010. The New Horizons Haiti exercise 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.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica M. Lopez
Click to enlarge

Army Col. Michael Borrel told participants in a „DoD Live“ bloggers roundtable that the task force is scheduled to complete the construction of four schools and 10 medical readiness and training exercise sites by Sept. 18.

„We have four project sites currently under way,“ said Army Maj. Chuck Hudson, 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 medical readiness and training exercise sites have been completed, and that those sites have treated more than 20,000 Haitian patients.

Another 10-day medical readiness and training exercise mission started today, said Air Force Col. Thomas Steinbrunner, officer in charge of the 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 Gonaïves,“ 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 also is 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 [U.S.] Southern Command and have a change of mission, which would require us to provide search and rescue, assessments of roads and … 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 Gonaïves 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.“

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)