Follow the 22d MEU in Haiti with Andrew Lubin

VIDEO: Troops Board Helicopter  

VIDEO: Aboard USS Bataan

VIDEO: Marines Flex Muscle

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Feb. 1: 22d MEU–Haiti

Andrew Lubin, Embedded Reporter

Off Route 200, 4 miles west of Leogane: “We’ve
got to put a UN-NGO face on this.” Major Christopher Wills, Battalion
Landing Team 3/2 quietly told Leatherneck. “The Sri
Lankans [the security arm of the UN mission] only got here a few weeks
before the earthquake [and] don’t have any ‘Terps,’ but they’ll be here
after we leave. So we’ll help them.”

Company K, BLT 3/2 had brought two trucks, one of food, and
one of bottled water, to a refugee camp a few miles west of Camp Kilo,
the latest small Marine encampment. Set up in a small field surrounded
by sugar cane and cows, the camp consisted of four tarps around a pile
of MRE boxes and cases of bottled water. The mission, Wills explained,
was to support a Sri Lankan platoon-sized unit at a displaced-persons
camp and bring enough supplies to give perhaps 1,100 men, women, and
children an MRE and a bottle of water.

Although the Sri Lankan troops are the lead UN force in
Haiti, they clearly had no concept of what was expected from them. As
“Kilo” Company drove into the camp, groups of Haitians were milling
around in the hot, humid, and sunny day as a few blue-helmeted troops
stood and watched.

As the Marines disembarked their trucks and humvees, several
Haitian aid workers appeared, as did a Sri Lankan captain, who ordered
the refugees assembled into lines: young children, women and girls, men
and teenage boys, and a small line of very old people. As First Sergeant
Jimmie Combs grabbed several Haitian workers and readied them to
distribute the MREs and water, the other aid workers quickly assembled
the refugees into the proper lines – where they waited patiently.

“Cyrille,” Maj Wills called over Marine Private James
Cyrille, “talk to them and tell them we’ll be starting soon. Cyrille
(Weapons Co, 2d Bn, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division) is one of the 70+
Creole-speaking Haitian-American Marines who volunteered to assist the
22d MEU. Cyrille grabbed his bullhorn and with Lance Corporal Jamie
Hayward providing security as they walked among the lines of
increasingly restless refugees, Cyrille pleaded with the crowd for calm
and patience and promised the distribution would start momentarily.

Click picture to watch video.

Maj Wills and 1stSgt Combs ensured Cyrille’s promises were
kept. The Sri Lankan captain had arbitrarily decided that groups of five
men and five women would alternate in receiving aid—until Will and
Combs saw an elderly Haitian woman collapse in front of them. The aid
handout would begin NOW, the Sri Lankan was advised, and it would begin
with the group of elderly women and men swaying in front of them.

With 1stSgt Combs motioning to the Haitian aid workers, the
elderly were walked to the Marine vehicles and gently handed an MRE and a
bottle of water. The long lines of women and men, adult and teens,
quickly and calmly received their aid; many of them waving shyly and
smiling at the Kilo Co Marines walking alongside them.

The line of children remained. Ranging from perhaps ages 2 –
10, they had been entertained by the Marines who gravitated towards the
smiling, chattering children. “I have a daughter at home,” Sergeant
Jeff Potter said as he shook hands and played with the younger children,
“and it’s easy to visualize mine here. I’m happy to be able to help.”
With SSgt Jonathan Breeden leading the way, the workers escorted the
children to receive their aid packages as 1stSgt Combs towering over the
children and UN soldiers. As he oversaw the operation, each child
received his or her food and water. “This was a good day,” Maj Wills
commented. “The aid workers did a good job, and the Sri Lankans just
need to learn what’s expected of them. And wasn’t it great helping all
those kids!”

Lubin Note: This is my last posting as I’m departing
Haiti. I’d like to thank CPT Paul Dahlen of the Puerto Rican Army
National Guard, Aviation Support, whose helo pilots flew me to
Port-au-Prince, along with Captains Clark Carpenter and Binford
Strickland, Public Affairs Officers, 22d MEU. In every possible sense,
they “helped make it happen.”

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Jan. 29: 22d MEU–Haiti

With 1st Recon Platoon, BLT 3/2

By Andrew Lubin


Dano, Haiti – Landing Zone Sting Ray: While the scenes of
individual rescues in Port-au-Prince still make the television news, the
Marines of Captain Robin Wagner’s 1st Recon Platoon are assisting a far
larger segment of the population.
“The Marine mission is unique,” Capt Wagner told Leatherneck.
“We’re not distributing food and water directly, but rather are
supporting the existing NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) who
already have distribution networks within Haiti. A group called Star of
Hope is strong here, so we’re supporting them.”

Located some 3 miles south of Grand Gouve, LZ Sting Ray is
located in Dano, a farming community in an agricultural district. The
earthquake flattened individual houses, killed an undetermined number of
locals, and caused serious injuries. Three locals were medivaced
yesterday, after they were carried by donkey over the mountains to LZ
Sting Ray, where they were flown to USS Bataan for urgent medical
treatment.

Today, four Marine CH-53’s flew pallets of MREs into Dano;
approximately every 45 minutes a helicopter flew in, circled, and
quickly landed onto a freshly cut-out landing pad. Earlier in the day,
after Wagner’s Marines walked to Dano, they began to chop a landing pad
out of the jungle foliage, dozens of local citizens arrived with
machetes and, working side-by-side with the Marines, the two groups
quickly cleared the undergrowth in time for the next helicopter.

The local citizenry had been assembled by “Mr. Tony” the
local Star of Hope coordinator. “We’ve been here for 20 years,” Tony
said, “running schools. We’ve got financing from Sweden, and an office
in Kansas. Now we’re doing food distribution, medical, and population
surveys.”

Speaking in Creole (the local language) Haitian-borne
Marine Sergeant Olnaud Valmyr addressed a crowd of some 200 locals “Keep
back when our machine lands,” he warned, “fierce winds will blow rocks
at you and hurt you.”

The crowd moved back a few inches, but then took their cue
from Tony, who used a bullhorn to harangue the crowd into turning their
backs as the first CH-53 helicopter landed. As the ramp dropped, a
contingent of 15 Navy volunteers from USS Bataan pushed four pallets
(4,400 lbs) of MREs out the back. More of Wagner’s Marines and the
sailors formed a chain, passing the boxes out of the landing zone. Soon
there were 200 boxes of MREs roughly stacked up; waiting to be moved
down a steep ravine, up the other side, and then down a mountain road to
the (damaged) Star of Hope school; a total distance of some 400 meters.

Prior to this, Wagner moved his Marines along the jungle
path to the school. Wearing soft covers, and without flak jackets, the
Marines were spaced some 50 meters apart as the locals gawked at them
and the children waved shyly. Spotting three Marines sitting on the
ground in front of Star of Hope’s school, Leatherneck asked if any
lessons learned in Iraq or Afghanistan were proving useful here.

“For sure, Sir,” laughed Sergeant T.C. Coy as he sat under a
palm frond lean-to, “we learned to take shelter from the sun and to
hydrate frequently. But seriously, I don’t see anything to worry about
here.”

Mr. Tony then proved why the Marines picked Star of Hope
with whom to partner. On his command, men, women, and children swarmed
the piled MRE boxes, placed them on their heads, and began walking them
to the school. Old women, boys of six and seven, teenage girls, and old
men, all began moving the precious cargo down the ravine and over to the
school. Interestingly, many teenage boys refused to work, despite being
the object of derision and ridicule by the women and teenage girls.

A dozen yards off the landing zone, Navy corpsmen set up an
aid station, the first the locals had seen in the two weeks since the
earthquake. Wagner had two Marines to control security as the docs set
up outside of a ruined building, and Navy linguist George Traore
assisted in treating the babies and injured locals who immediately lined
up for medical aid. With Traore translating, the Navy medical staff
first cared for an elderly lady with 2nd degree burns on her leg that
had festered badly after two weeks of non-treatment. Other cases were
similar, but less severe.

As the afternoon came to an end, the Marine helos had
delivered, and the locals had moved some 3,600 boxes of MREs. Even the
younger children, who earlier had run up and down the steep ravine walls
looked exhausted. But not an MRE box remained on the LZ, for with Mr.
Tony and his Star of Hope team organizing the locals to assist, a lady
with three young children came to Gunnery Sergeant Oscar Castillo and
said, “If you’ll watch my babies, I’ll carry the food boxes.”

Tomorrow: With Kilo Company, BLT 3/2 at LZ Mongoose //

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Jan. 28: 22d MEU–Haiti

USS Bataan & the Marines

By Andrew Lubin

“This ship may be the last
piece of America a deploying Marine sees;
I want us to be worthy of that honor”

CAPT Sam Howard, CO, USS Bataan

USS Bataan: CAPT Sam Howard is familiar with deploying Marines. In January 2003, he was the skipper of USS Ashland,
one of the LSD’s that carried Task Force Tarawa from Onslow Beach to
Kuwait for the subsequent invasion of Iraq. “Carrying those young
Marines to war was an eye-opener,” he told Leatherneck, “I told
my crew to treat those young Marine artillerymen (I call them all LCPL
Jackson), as one of their own. And carrying them home, we were as proud
of them as was their CO.”

Howard brought this same mindset to USS Bataan. “There’s no blue
or green here. We’ve got one mission, and let there be no
misunderstanding, the Marines and sailors will accomplish it together.”
It’s not just handing out food and water, he explained, it’s how America
projects power. Howard is very much in favor of the sea-based,
amphibious force concept: “We can move more Marines and equipment than
can air, and we’re not weather-sensitive. And we’re prepared to help you
or to hurt you; a Marine who can carry an M-4 can carry a flat of
water. He can perform a combat mission or a humanitarian one, and the
humvees our LCAC’s move ashore can carry ammunition or medical supplies.
And on the LCAC’s return trip, my docs can treat combat or civilian
casualties.”

Bataan is responsible for getting those LCAC’s and LCU’s ashore,
and the Beachmaster unit (BMU 2) has carved out four beach sites in the
past days: three for LCU’s and one LCAC. Inspecting the proposed sites
along the northern coast west of Leogane by air, they quickly landed
small bulldozers in order to build the landing sites, from which Bataan’s landing craft brought ashore the humvees and 7-Ton trucks used by the Marines in food and water distribution.

Last week, Bataan’s medical staff received an augment of 87
doctors and specialists, many of whom were pressed into service as their
gear was still sitting in the passageways. “We had an influx of badly
injured Haitians,” Howard commented, “many of whom were children. We
seem to have all the fleet pediatric specialists on board; we’ve got
neonatal specialists and pediatric nurses here, and they were incredibly
busy.” Howard noted that his sailors and Marines conducted the first
medical evacuations via LCAC, as they brought seriously injured Haitian
citizens on board from their beachhead sites.

Today the 22d MEU’s area of operations runs along a 25-mile coastline
stretching west of Leogane and some 5 miles deep. Tomorrow it might be
extended, as the Marine – American – UN mission changes to adapt to the
situation on the ground. Regardless of the mission assigned to USS Bataan, CAPT Howard assured Leatherneck, his bluejackets would be supporting LCpl Jackson and his mates.

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Jan. 27: 22d MEU–Haiti

An Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Rob Fulford, Commanding Officer, Battalion Landing Team 3/ 2, 22d MEU

By Andrew Lubin

USS Bataan: Patrolling to the west of
Port-au-Prince in Canal de Sud (South Channel), USS Bataan holds the
majority of the Marines and rolling stock of the 22d MEU. From last
week’s initial helicopter insertion into Leogane, the Marines of
Battalion Landing Team 3/ 2 currently own a battlespace that reaches
from Leogane west to Petit Goave, and southeast to Carrefour.

“The situation on the ground has improved tremendously,” LtCol Rob Fulford told Leatherneck
this morning, 27 January, in an exclusive interview. “In addition to
the supply depots we’ve established, we’re opening CMOC’s
[Civilian-Military Operations Centers] that are working with the NGO’s
and local Haitian leaders. Our CAG [civil affairs group] guys are
already working with some of the town councils.”

Leatherneck: “Lima 3/2 has been in Leogane for a week. Are things improving?”

Fulford: “Absolutely. The markets are re-opening and we see
the locals selling ice, fruits, vegetables The Haitians are a resilient
people, and while it’d be wrong to call them optimistic, the sense of
despair I saw last week is disappearing.”

L: Have your Marines had any security issues?

F: We have not. The Haitian people are following our
guidelines. Their major concern, however, is that food and water are
being distributed equitably.

L: Are the schools reopening?

F: No. Many of them need to be rebuilt, and there is still a
fear among the people of being indoors. We’ll see what happens in the
coming days.

L: What is the Marine mission here? Just handling food and water distribution, or is there a longer-term goal?

F: Short term, which could still be 30 days or more, is the
restoration of services back to a January 11 [pre-earthquake] status.
That includes electrical service, food distribution, and shelter.
Anything longer than that will be determined diplomatically; there was
just a conference in Montreal discussing this. (Note: the US military’s
actions are directed by USAID, who is working with the UN, who is
working in conjunction with the government of Haiti).

L: Lima Company is on the ground in Leogane. What are they doing?

F: My Marines have 2 missions. One is to work with the UN
and NGO’s in food and water distribution. They’ve been here longer; they
know or operate the local distribution channels, so we supply them and
assist with moving supplies. But recently we’ve been taking food and
water out into the countryside ourselves; there are areas that have had
no assistance in the 2 weeks since the earthquake struck, and we’re the
first relief they’ve seen.

L: I would think that the time spent in Iraq and Afghanistan
has given the Marine Corps a blueprint on how to succeed here?

F: Oh my yes. In the old days, we’d likely have just given
away food and water to everyone, which is certainly a humanitarian and
good-hearted response. But now we know not to distribute food and water
where it’s being consumed, otherwise they’re lining up for food three
times daily. We know to find local leaders, be they mayors, businessmen,
or teachers, to get them involved. Haiti has an existing culture and
economy; if we just hand out food, we destroy the market the farmers
need for their crops. We now know that our actions may have unintended
reactions, and that we need to think things through before acting. Many
of my Marines have served in Iraq or Afghanistan; we have an in-house
knowledge base that’s incredibly thorough.

L: You and your Marines just returned in early December from
a deployment. Any reactions to being pulled away from home again?

F: The reactions have been exceptionally positive,
especially among the Marines ashore. They’re working with the people,
with the NGO’s, and can see with each pallet of food or water how much
of a difference they’re making. This is a role for which Marines and the
Marine Corps might be the best suited in the world today.

Leatherneck: Thank you for your time LtCol Fulford.
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Jan. 25: 22d MEU–Haiti

By Andrew Lubin

Andrew Lubin is on his way to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, today to cover the 22d MEU.

Many thanks to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard with whom Andrew is travelling.

Check back tomorrow for his coverage of the 22d MEU's relief efforts in Haiti when he puts boots on the ground.

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Jan. 22: 22d MEU–Haiti

By Andrew Lubin

The situation in Haiti remains fluid as UN-US rescue
efforts continue to ramp-up. The 22d MEU continues to deliver food and
water in the Leogane area and yesterday delivered some of the first
relief supplies into Cotes de Fer since the earthquake struck some nine
days ago.

Weapons Company, BLT 3/ 2 handed out water and nutrition bars to the residents, most of whom were living in makeshift shelters.

"It's about getting the supplies to the people that need
them," said First Lieutenant Kevin Stuart, Weapons Co’s executive
officer. “They can't come and get it and some are not in the big cities
where the aid centers are. The challenging part is getting the food and
water to the
people who really need it the most."

The Marines returned to USS Bataan later in the afternoon.

Although the pictures being sent from the cities begin to
describe the situation on the ground, below is an email sent to
Leatherneck from a Florida-based first responder. The Fort Walton
beach-based Fl-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) has been in
Haiti for a week:

We probably fed over 1400 meals during the day.

In terms of medical care, we are constantly finding
dehydration and having to bring people into the embassy, and start IVs
and change bandages, set broken bones, stabilize cardiacs. We are
walking around through the crowds and find issues; some are imminent
need like a baby being born on the ground and then we get to hold a
newborn and stabilize. Amputations are still going on in a closet the
size of our clothes closet.

We have constantly had a mission going at the airport
loading the infirm into C130's (with no wraps!) or any possible type
plane leaving from a Lear jet to a 747.

Today we are to set up outside the walls if we are able to
have enough troops to protect us. We have had to bring in the riot
troops twice to the compound; when you are feeding up to 700 people at a
time, tremendous unrest has sometimes occurred - but when you have all
these pumped-up Marines with their big guns it does make a presence!

Today, they expect us to take care of up to 2,000 people with only about 20 members.
We have lost a number of members and had to have them
med-evaced; 2x Post traumatic syndrome, 2x dehydration, 1x broken bones.

I need to go medicate the whole team again against
infections. There is rampant, TB, typhoid fever, malaria, etc. The night
is long or short depending on how you look at it. Riots are constant
outside the walls so sirens are frequent, tremors are frequent, and
movement of personnel and goods are constant.

NOTE: Monday: An Interview with MajGen Cornell Wilson, heading up the Marine effort in Operation Unified Response

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Jan. 21: 22d MEU–Haiti

Last updated: 11:52 a.m. EST 22 January 2010  

By Andrew Lubin

“We are in Leogane,” Captain Clark Carpenter, 22d MEU
Public Affairs officer, e-mailed Leatherneck this afternoon. “There are
zero issues with the Haitians.  They are extremely respectful of our
operations.” More details are due from Capt Carpenter later today, but
this short note reconfirms another one he sent last night:

“Supplies continued to flow ashore today as Marines
delivered 1,487 cases of bottled water into Leogane and dozens of
five-gallon water cans near Petit Paradies. Marines from “Lima” Company,
BLT 3/ 2 were the first significant Marine presence ashore Tuesday as
they secured a landing zone in Leogane. Also on Tuesday, humvees and
Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 22 came ashore at the New
American Mission in Padou.

Six humvees with 24 CLB Marines provided 500 gallons of
water to residents at Petit Paradies. The CLB Marines continued inland
where they linked up with Lima Co and used their humvees to move dozens
of cases of water to a nearby distribution point.

The crowd was curious about the Marine's operations,
according to Staff Sergeant Clausele Barthold. At one point, a local man
opened coconuts for the Marines who were providing security on the
perimeter to help build rapport between the residents and Marines.

"The Haitians think that when the U.S. Marines come ashore,
that it means force," said Barthold, a Haitian-American who grew up in
Haiti. "But after being here two days, and seeing how hard the Marines
are working, they are beginning to trust the Marines and become more
friendly."

Barthold volunteered his services after the massive
earthquake rocked his native country. He also rallied other Haitian
Marines he knew to join the effort. Barthold and 30 others were quickly
integrated into a team of interpreters to support the MEU's relief
efforts. Barthold spoke with crowds, gave them directions and even
found time to joke around with a group of children who sat in a school
circle around him at the edge the landing zone.

"I'm overwhelmed with joy to help, but at the same time
it's hurtful to see the human suffering," said Barthold. "But the
Marines are here to help, and with time, the suffering will come to an
end."

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Jan. 20: 22d MEU–Haiti

Last updated: 9:49 p.m. EST 20 January 2010  

Medical Care Afloat: USS Bataan & USNS Comfort

By Andrew Lubin

With the death toll in Haiti now estimated at a horrific
200,000+, attention is being focused on the arrival of the American
naval ships in Port-au-Prince harbor. The USS Bataan (LHD 5) arrived
late morning Monday along with USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), and USS Carter
Hall (LSD 50). Both USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and hospital ship USNS
Comfort (T-AH-20) dropped anchor mid-morning today, while the aircraft
carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) has been sitting off the Haitian coast
since last week.

Reports of combat-like casualties are becoming increasingly common, with NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s report “Amputate or Die” describing the grim nature of many of the injuries.

But from Bataan and Comfort, the doctors are awaiting a
flood of casualties, and talked to Leatherneck about the state of their
readiness:

“We have four operating rooms, 14 ICU beds, and 38 ward
beds,” Commander Melanie Merrick, Bataan’s Senior Medical Officer told
Leatherneck. “The operating rooms are staffed with a surgeon, an OR
nurse, a critical care nurse, and an anesthesiologist, and we can rotate
our Fleet Surgical Teams (FST’s) so both surgeons and nurses can step
in and out without a break in care.”

There are both general surgeons and specialists on board
Bataan, with an additional 87 medical personnel assigned.
Specializations include family medicine and pediatrics.

Yet with only 17 Haitians brought to Bataan for treatment in
the 48 hours since the ship’s arrival, the ship’s commander, Captain
Sam Howard, addressed the question of medical care directly: “our flight
deck is in operation 24/7; we’ve got Navy MH-60’s and Marine CH-53’s
and Hueys conducting relief operations. If we were to fill the flight
deck with cots, then we’d sacrifice our ability to supply food and water
to a far larger group of people, as well as support the Marines
ashore.”

Howard explained that the 22d MEU has established a beach
site near Leogane, where air cushioned craft (LCAC’s) and utility
landing craft (LCU’s) are establishing a supply dump in order to
resupply their relief effort in Leogane. “We had 800 Marines go ashore
yesterday and today, Howard said, “and they’re building a stockpile of
supplies as quickly as possible.”

To date, there is no overall commander of the medical
effort, CDR William Wallace, Bataan’s Fleet Surgical Team’s officer in
charge explained. Between the ships of the 22d MEU, Comfort, and Carl
Vinson, and the mobile surgical hospitals and doctors sent by Colombia,
Israel, and Argentina, there are continuous ad-hoc discussions as to how
to coordinate triage and medical assistance.

Today’s arrival of USNS Comfort increases the medical
capacity geometrically. With 1,000 beds, increased staffing, blood
banks, and sophisticated equipment providing CAT scan and other
abilities, the most critically injured in Haiti now have access to
western hospitalization.

CDR Mark Marino, Comfort’s Director of Nursing, told
Leatherneck that his capacity included “beds for 400-600 walking
wounded, 400+ higher-level care that would entail use of IV’s, 60-80
hi-acuity-critical care patients. We also have 8 – 11 operating rooms, a
20 bed recovery room, and a 50-bed casualty receiving –triage
room.”Marino also described their training en-route “we’d practice
taking mannequins off helicopters, triaging them, and moving them below
for proper care. We’re ready.”

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Jan. 20: 22d MEU–Haiti

Last updated: 11:30 a.m. EST 20 January 2010

By Andrew Lubin

Yesterday the Marines landed in Haiti. Lieutenant Colonel
Rob Fulford, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 3/2 led the
first wave of Marines into Leogane as some 125 Marines arrived on six
helicopters launched from USS Bataan. Fulford said his Marines would be
reinforced later in the evening by the MEU’s logistics element, Combat
Logistics Battalion 22 and added, “The intention of this force is to
rapidly build a landing zone that relief supplies can go into.”

The Marines are using a cow pasture for their landing zone,
one of the few undamaged areas in Leogane. Plans are to build up the LZ
rapidly, as aid needs to be distributed quickly. The epicenter of the
earthquake was in the Port-au-Prince area, where approximately a third
of Haiti’s nine million people live. Entire neighborhoods collapsed,
along with hospitals, schools, power plants, and cell phone towers.
Fulford’s Marines, along with the rapidly arriving non-government
organizations, or NGO’s, and foreign forces, will be filling the vacuum
left by the non-functioning government of President Rene Preval.

Our efforts have been going very well," said Captain James
Birchfield, commanding Company L, BLT 3/ 2. "It's hard work, but the
Marines are working quickly to get the supplies to those who need them."
Through the afternoon, U.N. forces picked the pallets of food and water
brought by “Lima” Co and distributed them to areas that have had
virtually no relief since the earthquake rocked the country seven days
ago.

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Note: This morning at 0603 an earthquake of 6.0
magnitude rocked Haiti, epicenter of which was Jacmel, where 2,000
Canadian troops are currently arriving.

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Jan. 19: 22d MEUHaiti

Last updated: 9:30 a.m. EST 20 January 2010

By Andrew Lubin

The three ships of the 22d Marine
Expeditionary Unit sailed into Port-au-Prince harbor late yesterday
morning. Commanded by Col Gareth Brandl, some 2,200 Marines left
Morehead City, N.C, embarked in USS Bataan, USS Fort McHenry, and USS
Carter Hall carrying heavy-lift and utility helicopters, trucks, humvees
and amphibious assault vehicles. The MEU’s logistics capabilities
include water purification and medical support, both of which are
necessary to relieve the strain on the destroyed Haitian infrastructure.

A fourth vessel, USS Gunston Hall, is in transit to Haiti
carrying an additional complement of amphibious assault vehicles. As
part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, the MEU was tasked on
Thursday, Jan.14, to assist in Operation Unified Response. By Saturday,
the ships were loaded with vehicles and supplies, Marines recalled from
leave, and underway on Saturday, Jan. 16—only 36 hours after
notification.

The Navy and Marine Corps will be providing assistance as
soon as possible, Col Brandl said. “We are here to support the Haitian
people in an area that has been hard hit by this disaster.”

This area will be south and west of Port-au-Prince, U.S.
Army Lieutenant General Ken Keen, the commanding general of Combined
Joint Task Force Haiti told Leatherneck 18 Jan.: “They’re going to go
into an area southwest of the city where we haven’t been yet because we
don’t have enough forces. We will put them in the Leogane area which is
one of the most hardest-hit cities. It’s right near the center of the
epicenter…the reports I’ve heard, over 60 percent of that city was
destroyed. So they’re going into an area that is in great need.”

The heavy equipment from USS Bataan landed this morning.
Commander William Wallace, a spokesman for USS Bataan told Leatherneck
that bulldozers and heavy lift equipment began beach clearance
operations in order to build a shore-based staging area. So far today,
only food and water has been shipped ashore.

Although Bataan is the most robust ship in the harbor,
with a 60-bed hospital, and the Fleet Surgical Teams on board standing
by, no casualties have yet been sent on board. With the Navy’s hospital
ship USS Comfort due to arrive tomorrow (Weds), with her superior
medical facilities and 1,000 bed hospital, only then will a coordinated
medical effort begin.

“We’ll have the Comfort, the Bataan, and the Carl Vinson,”
Wallace explained,” and we’ll triage people to the most appropriate
facility.” Calling in from sea, CDR Mark Merino, Director of Nursing in
USS Comfort told Leatherneck that they’re ready for the various types of
injuries following such a disaster: “On arrival we’ll see trauma, food
and dehydration problems, infection from untreated injuries. In another
week we’ll see patients who can’t get access to the meds they take for
blood pressure, diabetes, and other problems.”

With reports of the widespread looting in Port-au-Prince
reaching to other parts of the country, LTG Keen told Leatherneck, “UN
troops have been overtly welcomed… We have not personally experienced
any of this violence in the areas that we have been...we're seeing
indicators that (the gangs) sort of dusted themselves off and found
their weapons. But we will have to deal with the security situation as
we try to help the Haiti people.”

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Editor’s note: Andrew Lubin is a frequent contributor.
He has embedded as a journalist several time with Marines in
Afghanistan. Additionally, he is the author of the award-winning book
"Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq,” as well as "Keep
Moving or Die: Task Force Tarawa at An-Nasiriyah,” to be published by
Naval Institute Press this year.