PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti - Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 24 arrived at an empty soccer field here Jan. 31 with a mission – transform this recreation area into an interim medical after-care facility capable of treating up to 250 patients.
Within 48 hours the Marines and their Navy counterparts completed setting up a small tent city of large, green military tents neatly aligned across a field owned by car dealership owner Daniel Wozier. By Saturday there were 43 tents, capable of holding 400 patients and far exceeding the initial requirement, erected and the first three patients arrived from USNS Comfort.
The facility was set up on land loaned to the U.S. Government for free by local national Daniel Wozier, owner of the General Motors and Honda dealership across from the site that includes a helicopter landing zone and 400 bed spaces, giving patients presently on USNS Comfort a place to rehabilitate before going home.
“Our sole purpose here was to build a viable system so that the USNS Comfort is able to discharge stable patients and bring them here so in turn they will be able to take on more critical patients,” said Maj. Keith E. Owens, executive officer, CLB-24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Approximately 100 Marines and Sailors with CLB-24, with help from U.S. Army soldiers of 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command who transported tents, food and water to the site, worked together in setting up this facility. Once completed and ready for patients, medical staffers from USNS Comfort, USS Battan, USS Ashland, USS Normandy, USS Ft. McHenry and Desron 14 arrived and set up medical treatment equipment inside the tents.
“This is truly a joint effort, we’ve got the Navy medical staff caring for the patients, Army convoys bringing in supplies and Marines providing logistical support as well as security,” said Owens, a Jackson, Mich. native.
These patients received their initial care aboard USNS Comfort but that is not enough. Before returning home they must be completely rehabilitated and this facility provides them the space and care they need to get back to their lives.
“A lot of these people need after care not just initial care, this facility will send them back to their homes fully rehabilitated and ready to get back into their daily routines,” said, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nick R. Richards, hospital corpsman, USNS Comfort. 24th MEU Marines and Sailors transferred all their responsibility for security of the area Feb. 8 and brought all their troops and equipment back to USS Mesa Verde and USS Nassau and departed Haiti for future missions in the Central Command area of operations. “I have every confidence that they will continue to do a good job maintaining this facility and the people of Haiti will receive the best care available,” said Owens.
Initially this facility will ease the strain on the USNS Comfort and other naval vessels that are at capacity for medical patients. Rotating those no longer in need of critical care on U.S. ships to an interim facility makes space for those still in need. The goal is for sites like this to replace ships and allow Haitian locals to return home.