Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oregon airmen helping relief effort in Haiti settle in

On Feb. 2, I reported on four airmen from the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing, who left Oregon for six months in order to assist in the ongoing relief effort in Haiti.

The four airmen will spend six months in Haiti, providing weather operations support to the 24th Air Expeditionary Group at Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

How they got there is an interesting story in itself. I'll let their default spokesperson, Master Sgt. Ken Campbell, tell you the story himself. He did mention that they're lacking in MWR and entertainment items, and would love to have various flavors of Crystal Light drink mix. I've attached his teams' mailing address at the end of this post.

But first, the "hero" shot he sent me this morning:

Four airmen of the Oregon Air National Guard, after arriving at the Port-au-Prince Airport in Haiti. From left to right: Master Sgt. Ken Campbell, Tech. Sgt. Michael Fischer, Staff Sgt. Matt Jenkins, and Lt. Mark Gibson.

Greetings from Haiti! I hope that everything is going well in Portland. I just wanted to give you an update and let you know how things are going with us here.

We arrived in Charlston, S.C., and got put in the queue for our military airlift to Haiti. There was quite a backlog of people and equipment and it was taking some personnel almost a week to be scheduled for airlift into Port-au-Prince. It was a little bit of a surprise to our team because we had packed for Haiti and not for chilly South Carolina. We were delayed for five days and after several mission cancellations, we flew down on Super Bowl Sunday. We were orginally on the flight that was going to do the Super Bowl flyover, but that was cancelled after discussions between the Air Force and CBS.

We arrived in Haiti at 9:00 p.m. and in-processed with the 24 Air Expeditionary Group (24AEG) before finding a tent to haul our gear to for the night. I've deployed to a lot of places during my career, but this one is one of the most challeging. Our tents are 300 meters from the runway, so you not only hear, but can feel every aircraft that takes off by day and night. That's a tough one considering we have about 80 flights a day in and out of Port-au-Prince.

All of our tents have 16-18 people in them when the desired manageable number of people would be about 12. Some cots are so close together that you have to crawl into them from the foot of the cot. There is minimal room for gear or personal items, and we have dayshift, swing shift, and night shift sleeping in the same tents.

We now have a shower tent, but there are over 700 Air Force and hundreds of Army, Navy, and a few Australians thrown in, that have to find time and spacde to clean up. We have four washing machines for all of our laundry needs, but that's still better than washing our uniforms in buckets like we were (originally) doing.

We do have a sufficient number of portable toilets, which is a relief! There are no hot meals and the two kitchens that were scheduled to be delivered have, to the best of our knowledge, been cancelled. We receive three MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) a day and there is plenty of drinkable water. The running joke lately is how long it will take us to come down with scurvy.

There is no MWR at all, which is to be expected, but many people deployed before they had an opportunity to purchase books or other mindless activities to relieve the stress. The Communications unit is hoping to set up a tent for us to use the Internet during our off hours.

We have set up a Base Weather station from scratch and are working 12-hour shifts with no days off. We have built into our schedule time to volunteer with recovery efforts in Port-au-Prince, and I will send another e-mail detailing my participatin in recover efforts at the Hotel Montana on Valentine's Day.

We are providing weather support to military operations to include Air Force, Army, Canadian and Australian military forces. We will begin working with the Haitian and the National Weather Service soon to evaluate how we can assist them with their operations in advance of the rainy season and Hurricane Season.

Lt. Gibson has done a great job of working with the 24AEG staff and other entities here at the airport. I can't begin to tell you how proud of my guys I am. They're working hard, have great attitudes, are volunteering for extra duties and responsibilities, and take everything in stride. I've got a great deployment team!

We also now have a mailing address if anyone would like to write us or send us care packages. We are short on most items and the individual crystal light drink mixes seem to be a hot commodity.

Kenneth P. Campbell, MSgt., USAF
NCOIC Battlefield Weather Team
24 AEG, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Care packages can be sent to the following address:

MSgt. Ken Campbell
c/o 24 AEG/Battlefield Weather Team
APO AA, 34063

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