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Haitian Evacuees Sent to Joint Base McGuire

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2010 – Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., welcomed and provided resources for more than 500 evacuees from Haiti this weekend at an evacuation center created on base.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Airmen help evacuees from Haiti as they arrive at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Jan. 16, 2010. More than 500 survivors of the Jan. 22 earthquake have arrived at the joint base since Jan. 15. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Johnson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"The morale here could never be higher," Air Force Col. Gina Grosso, commander of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said during a Jan. 17 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Several federal agencies including the Departments of Defense, State, and Health and Human Services, along with state government and community groups, helped to ensure the evacuees were properly cared for when they arrived back in the United States.

The team provided immediate care such as showers, food, medical care and transportation to make sure that each evacuee reached their final destinations. Local Haitian churches also provided translators to help with language barriers.

The C-17 Globemaster IIIs that brought in the evacuees had flown military personnel and equipment to the disaster area the day before, Grosso said.

After clearing U.S. Customs, Grosso said the first thing many evacuees did was charge their cell phones and began contacting family members and making travel arrangements home.

Most evacuees traveled to Philadelphia or Newark to catch flights home. The New Jersey Department of Human Services provided shuttles to New York. “Individuals told us where they needed to go and [we] facilitated to get them to their final destination,” Grosso said.

Several evacuees were treated for minor injuries including fractures, scrapes, bruises and infections. “If they were seriously injured, they weren’t supposed to get on the plane,” the colonel said.

Some injuries also became worst during the flight and several people were treated for broken bones and complications from not being treated for several days. But overall, she said, “They are, generally, in very good conditions.”

Grosso also said that there was no real way to prepare for the evacuees. “We received a phone call late Thursday night. We didn’t have a plan on the shelf that we pulled out, but it was a combination of previous experience from the leadership team matching with the experience our local resources have.”

It was a great example of agencies working well together, Grosso said. “The Department of Defense called the state, and then the state called the federal government. As soon as they knew the services we needed, they came right away.

“You really can’t describe how good you feel” Helping the evacuees, Gross said. It was a total team effort, she said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Haiti Earthquake Relief

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