JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing and interagency partners arrived at Port-au-Prince International Airport, Haiti, Oct. 6, to support the government of Haiti’s request for assistance after Hurricane Matthew.
The Joint Task Force-Port Opening consisted of more than 110 CRW Airmen stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Soldiers from the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and Defense Logistics Agency members.
This mission will mark the first time the JTF-PO will consist of three entities; the 621st CRW, 689th RPOE, and DLA.
“Unfortunately we’re testing this on a real humanitarian operation but it’s working out well so far,” said Col. Leslie Maher, JTF-PO commander. “We’re already seeing the relationships developing that will allow us to be successful.”
Once the teams assembled, the Joint Assessment Team surveyed initial needs and established mobility capabilities allowing the JTF-PO to support humanitarian relief efforts. The JTF-PO specializes in rapidly establishing hubs for cargo distribution operations worldwide, to include remote or damaged locations, on short notice.
“The JTF-PO is doing great,” said Maher. “Their spirits are really high because they’re getting to see that the relief is going to the right people, doing things that are stretching their capabilities and getting to put their training to good use.”
The CRW conducts exercises year round to help prepare for situations such as these and allow the CRW to have the capability of deploying within a 12 hour notice.
“The exercises definitely prepared us because by building those relationships, we’ve already familiarized ourselves with the RPOE,” Maher said. “We already know the faces, we trained together, we know their lingo, and we know who we could trust. That just made this a whole lot easier and getting the band together, it was very successful.”
More than 450 short tons of hygiene kits, food, water, tarps and other cargo have been received and staged by the JTF-PO.
“Initially, the flight line was hectic,” said Tech. Sgt. Ronald Rowe, JTF-PO aerial porter. “It’s been challenging because of the language barrier. The level of experience [Haitians] have is different than ours. At the end of the day, we're getting done what needs to get done.”
Maher praised the Airmen for being able to quickly answer the call.
“It’s amazing as you watch these guys get out here and they’ve got everything on their back and you know they’re going to be living possibly 60 days out of what’s on their back, plus all the stuff they need to do their job correctly,” she said. “You just can’t get that anywhere else.”
As of today, more than 350,000 people are in need of assistance. Haiti's Civil Protection Department has reported approximately 372 deaths, with 14,330 Haitians occupying emergency shelters, 6,000 persons are displaced, and 80 percent of the affected areas have been destroyed.