Task Force Kout Men (Helping Hands) in Haiti - DoD Roundtable
With so many things grabbing our attention in this very busy world little notice was made of the recent deployment of forces to continue with the humanitarian assistance programs in Haiti following that country's devastating earthquake. What is particularly surprising is that the Louisiana National Guard is leading this effort while facing its own disaster at home with the oil spill. Showing our national spirit of supporting those in need once again, the Guard is leading a joint force of responders with components from active, Reserves and Guard forces. Col Michael Borrel, is the Commander of “Task Force Kout Men”, Creole for Helping Hands. Despite an extremely busy schedule he took the time to talk to the DoD Bloggers Roundtable about this latest effort to reach out to the Haitian people.
He described the “New Horizons” mission as two fold with relief for the Haitians and a great opportunity for medical teams and engineers to get valuable training. After the earthquake up to 100,000 Haitians left the Port au Prince area and settled about 100 miles to the north, quickly overwhelming facilities in that region. With about 500 service members under his command the medical readiness teams have spread out to 5 locations and the engineers are rebuilding or adding on to four schools. The colonel said the key is "partnership" with the United Nations forces, Haitian national police and non governmental organization (NGOs) who have provided assistance and cooperate to make the team of Kout Men more effective with their particular skills. The task force has five helicopters from three different states (Louisiana, Montana and Nevada) to move TF members and supplies to the different school project and medical readiness training sites. One aircraft remains at the base camp to provide a response capability for the team and the other four are based at the Port au Prince airport. Two heavy lift CH-47s and three UH-60 Black Hawks are manned and maintained by TF crews.
Each medical team consists of 30-40 personnel with 3 or 4 doctors to treat Haitian patients. He said the teams are rotating with new personnel every 17 days to spread the training opportunities (and annual tour requirements as well) among as many as possible. They have a close cooperation with the medical NGOs and Haitian medical personnel as well. The engineers are replacing wells and latrines at the school projects as well to improve sanitation for the children.
One inevitable question was how can the Louisiana Guard support this project while their coast is under assault from the oil spill and with the hurricane season just kicking off? Colonel Borrel said the plan had been evaluated by their staff and that they were not doing it alone. The Louisiana National Guard is very busy he said with 3,000 in Iraq and 1,000 engaged in cleanup right now. The Guard is also the state’s primary force for hurricane season recovery efforts and he said they were prepared to respond to a potential hurricane as well.
He closed with comments about how he was extremely proud of Task Force “Kout Men” and how much respect they were receiving from the Haitians. He felt giving back and helping out others was important and that they were accomplishing so much in Haiti. Amen! Thank you Colonel!
For more informative articles on Haiti please go to MilitaryAvenue’s Reading Room or Our Letters to You blog series on Haiti. To listen to an audio of the Roundtable or read a transcript please go to DoDLive. If you would like to read Col Borrel’s latest blog please go to http://www.dodlive.mil/index.php/2010/06/new-horizons-haiti-commander%E2%80%99s-blog/
Thank you again to the Colonel and the folks who set up the Roundtable! Great information and on scene perspectives from around the world direct to our audience!
Photo Credit: Col. Michael Borrel from the Louisiana National Guard is commander of Task Force Kout Men (Helping Hands in Creole). Borrel is spearheading the New Horizons-Haiti 2010 mission in support of the U.S. Southern Command.