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Gunston Hall Sailors Help Haitians in Quake Aftermath

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100125-22
Release Date: 1/25/2010 5:05:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) John Stratton, USS Gunston Hall Public Affairs

KILLICK, Haiti (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) have been providing aid at the Haitian Coast Guard base to people affected by the earthquake since Jan. 21.

"What we're doing ashore is awesome and is creating the conditions to quickly and safely treat, and when needed, transfer wounded Haitians in need of critical medical care," said Gunston Hall Command Master Chief Duke Owings. "It's a big job, but my Sailors are up for the challenge."

Gunston Hall is one of many units sent to the region after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the Caribbean island Jan. 12 to support Operation Unified Response, the joint U.S. military operation providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Haiti.

Gunston Hall began transporting daily 40-man working parties ashore Jan. 21. These Sailors fill a variety of jobs, including stretcher bearers, watchstanders at the operations center, assisting the medical personnel, and general housekeeping of the clinic to help it stay organized.

For many, it was their first glimpse into the devastation and into the desperation of the injured to receive needed medical treatment.

"This is very overwhelming," said Quartermaster Seaman Joseph Johnson, from Murietta, Calif. "You can never quite prepare yourself mentally for something like this. We just got here and already I've made several litter carries from the clinic to the landing zone."

While Sailors like Johnson help carry litters of wounded, others like Chief Quartermaster (SW/AW) Deenicia Canty, from Lake City, Fla., make sure the wounded are properly cared for while awaiting transport to USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Bataan (LHD 5) or to civilian hospitals.

"I have prior medical experience so what I've been able to do here is pass out medication and change out bandages on an as-needed basis," said Canty. "The other stretcher bearers are also trained to switch out bandages and apply topical solutions to treat whatever wounds these people may have."

With the exception of those who are critically injured arriving at the Haitian base, all needing treatment at the clinic must be taken to a triage area and evaluated. Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Katrina Thomas, from Austin, Texas, makes sure the lines at the triage check-in area run smoothly.

Thomas said she was only there a few minutes when she realized how many people she had already seen.

"It's very rewarding to know you've already made an impact, so early in the day," stated Thomas.

Gunston Hall is conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for Operation Unified Response under control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. Fourth Fleet (NAVSO/C4F). NAVSO/C4F is directing all Naval assets and personnel in support of Joint Task Force Haiti, the joint command element directing U.S. military capabilities support to USAID and the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

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