Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ACB 2 Clears a Path in Haiti

U.S. service members from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) pass Haitian citizens while looking for the best access point onto Port-au-Prince. Carter Hall is on station in Haiti supporting Operation Unified Response, a joint operation providing military support capabilities to civil authorities to help stabilize and improve the situation in Haiti following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the island nation on Jan. 12, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Monique K. Hilley/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Hendrick L. Dickson, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East

USS CARTER HALL, At Sea (NNS) -- When USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) deployed Jan. 14 to support Operation Unified Response, a joint military relief effort for victims of the earthquake in Haiti, the ship deployed with the Navy's disaster relief experts as one of its many assets.

Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2's Disaster Recovery Team (DRT) specializes in these types of relief operations and is ready to "clear the way" and bring humanitarian support to the area.

"We're the front-runners," said Senior Chief Engineman (SCW/SW) Steven M. Krutke, ACB 2 DRT officer-in-charge. "We're going to get a good punch into the city. We're going to open it up so we can get more troops in there, give more help and more humanitarian assistance. That's what we do. We get the Marines ashore so they can get the 'beans, bullets and band-aids' where they need to go."

The DRT brings a lot of essential capabilities to the situation in Haiti where the country is still in peril after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Much of the island nation is ravaged with debris; the lack of power, food and water remains an issue.

"The capabilities we have are extremely immense, and it looks like we'll be able to deploy our complete mission in Haiti," said Krutke. "I've got two bulldozers, dump trucks, front-end loaders, humvees, water-making capabilities, chain saws, welders - just about anything we need to do to get the job done. And if we don't have the tools, I guarantee these Sailors will improvise and come up with something. They will do what it takes to accomplish the mission."

Perhaps the key to the team's versatility is its structure.

"We have two different communities," explained Krutke. "You have your Seabees community. Then you have your fleet community, which is your enginemen, your boatswain's mates, supply personnel and others. It's just a great group which comes together to work as a team whenever they are called."

The mission in Haiti may be one of DRT's most visible missions yet. The DRT understands that they are not just Sailors, Seabees, boatswain's mates and enginemen; they provide humanitarian assistance and represent the United States around the world.

"We're here for the residents of Haiti," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW) Robert Courson, leading petty officer for DRT Team 2. "The disaster that they are going through has things in disarray for them. It's important for us to be there to provide support and to show them that the United States cares about them. When they see us, it will give them a peace of mind that things are going to get better."

"By coming here, it gives people a better understanding of the United States," added Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Emilio Rothschuh, DRT medical technician. "And it helps us build our relationships with other countries because they get to see what we are really about."

The DRT team intends on demonstrating what America is really about by completing a mission the way they always have - with compassion and hard work.

"In my 24 years of Navy experience, I've never seen a group of Sailors that are more willing to go out and help people that need help than the men and women I'm working with right now," said Krutke.

"Each and every one of the Sailors I work with is committed," he said, "And if it's 30 days, 40 days, 90 days, or if it's a six-month deployment, these Sailors will complete the mission."

USS Carter Hall is part of the Amphibious Relief Mission, which includes USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).