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)