Task Force Kout Men moved into northern Haiti in mid June. Over 500 members of the United States military, the National Guard, Reserves and the regulars, will be working in and around the city of Gonaives. The base camp is in the village of Mandrin.
The task force is headed by the Louisiana National Guard who chose the Creole name, which means “Helping Hands”. The exercise is titled “New Horizons – Haiti 2010″ and the men and women rotating through during the June through September time frame will be working on four schools and providing a number of medical outreach services.
At any one time 500-550 Americans will be on the ground but units will be rotating in and out during the mission. It is headed by the Louisiana National Guard and many participants are from Guard and Reserve units in other states, such as Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, North and South Dakota, Texas and U.S. Virgin Islands. Troops from the Central American nation of Belize are also attached to the mission.
In a Bloggers’ Roundtable, we had the opportunity to speak with Army Col. Michael Borrel, the task force commander of the New Horizons-Haiti 2010 exercise, a member of the task force’s engineering team, Maj. Charles “Chuck” Hudson, Louisiana National Guard, as well as a member of the medical staff, U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas Steinbrunner.
Work on local schools is progressing. In addition to structural work, the American engineers are adding wells for drinking water and improved latrines. The SeaBees, Navy Construction Batt. 25, are doing much of this work, assisted by other units and the troops from Belize.
Asked about the earthquake and hurricane resistance of the new construction, Col. Borrel had this to say:
Yes, the system that was selected through the Army South engineers that we’re utilizing is the Royal Building Systems that’s — that has since been renamed the NuForm System. And it’s essentially a concrete-reinforced slab that’s 3,500-PSI concrete with reinforced rebar that is very — with a six-inch slope that’s very strong concrete slab. The walls use a smaller aggregate but at the same 3,500 PSI and the same six-inch slump (sic; slope). So it’s a reinforced concrete building.
And the roof structure facilitates a steel frame J-bolt system that’s bolted steel with the corrugated metal roof. You know, it’s much more better — much better technology, a much stronger system than any of the systems in — being utilized in Haiti. When we came on the ground, essentially, in Mandrin they were using United Nations tents, and they had a pole barn that they were using as a classroom.
So this will be a significant improvement and will enhance the learning capabilities of the children and the instructors as well.
At the facilities at the K. Georges and at the Diaquoi (sp), they were existing structures that were projects from the past that were constructed under the guise of USAID, and they are a similar concrete reinforced structure that have withstood the hurricanes and winds of the past. The grade at which we are placing these buildings is consistent with where the grade is of the existing structures and is intended to be above any type of flood area.
This region of Haiti escaped the direct effects of the January 12, 2010, earthquake. Gonaives was partially destroyed by Hurricane Hannah in 2008 and suffers from regular flooding. I asked Co. Borrel about the choice of location for the exercise. He told us that up to 100,000 Haitians from the quake zone were believed, by the Haitian government, to have moved to the Gonaives area. The work on the schools provides for more capacity, to allow some of those refugee children to attend school.
Ten medical exercises are part of the overall mission plan. To date, the officers report that well over 20,000 Haitians have been seen at a variety of locations. Col. Steinbrunner described this outreach as primary care only. Serious problems would be referred to the local Haitian hospitals.
Along with medical exams, Haitians are being seen by dentists and other medical professionals. At the request of the Haitian government, there are no immunizations being provided. Steinbrunner described the conditions seen to date as a mix of many things, skin conditions, parasitic illnesses and sexually transmitted diseases being predominant.
The large numbers of American troops that surged into Haiti after the earthquake are gone. Yet, a small, hardworking group of Americans troops continue to make a difference as a part of Task Force Helping Hands.
You can follow these Americans through social media:
Facebook: New Horizons – Task Force Kout Men
Table of contents for Haiti quake aftermath
- Two months after the Haitian earthquake
- Haiti – a nation of smiles and struggles
- The damage from the Haitian earthquake
- Who is in charge in Haiti
- The current situation in Haiti
- What is the best way to help the Haitians?
- Air National Guard members honor Hotel Montana dead
- Haitian homeless still homeless
- Army landing craft aid Columbian Navy in Haiti
- Louisiana National Guard to lead assistance exercise in Haiti
- ND Guard finishes Haiti mission
- Haiti is still a disaster area, even without Anderson Cooper
- Just a roof over their heads
- United States military continues Haiti aid mission
- Marines coming home to Haiti
- Haiti – Two Years After the Earthquake