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FDPMU Ensures Environmental Safety for NORTHCOM New Orleans HQ

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050916-20
Release Date: 9/16/2005 3:30:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class (SCW/SS) James G. Pinsky, Navy News Service

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- Forward Deployable Preventative Medicine Unit (FDPMU) East lent its support to command elements of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) here Sept. 14.

FDPMU East, currently deployed to Naval Air Station (NAS) Joint Reserve Base (JRB) New Orleans in support of Joint Task Force (JTF) Katrina, conducted an on-site inspection of the Hyatt New Orleans hotel at the request of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a precaution prior to NORTHCOM establishing a command emergency operations center at the hotel.

According to Lt. Lisa Wohlford, environmental health officer for FDPMU East, there are no significant findings in water tests conducted at the hotel. The water can be used for showers; however, Wohlford recommended hotel occupants continue using bottled water for drinking until the city of New Orleans is able to bring the municipal water system back online.

“We took some water samples from various locations inside the hotel,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (AW) Jason Jordan, a preventive medicine technician (PMT) assigned to FDPMU East.

The mobile field laboratory Sailors then took the samples back to their NAS JRB New Orleans campsite and conducted extensive research to determine whether there were any health risks to workers planning to operate out of the Hyatt New Orleans.

Command authorities, like NORTHCOM, at the local, state and federal levels, intend to use the high-rise, downtown hotel to coordinate relief and recovery efforts for the city of New Orleans.

Hyatt New Orleans received initial damage from Hurricane Katrina which was then compounded by the environmental impact of supporting evacuees from the New Orleans Superdome.

PMTs like Jordan are trained to provide essential, accurate scientific evidence to command authorities like NORTHCOM so commanding officers can deploy their troops into a safe and habitable environment, whether it’s the deserts of Iraq or the flooded streets of New Orleans.

“We take great pride in being able to provide on-scene commanders with the confidence and knowledge they need to do their jobs,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW/FMF) Shannon Taylor, a fellow PMT assigned with Jordan at FDPMU East.

The health inspection of the Hyatt New Orleans is just one of several inspections various command elements of military units have requested of the nine-man medical scientific team from Norfolk, Va.

The Sailors have also completed similar work for units like the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, USS Tortuga (LSD 46), Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40, and several other DoD assets deployed in support of hurricane relief efforts.

Taylor and Jordan remained optimistic that the environmental damage in the disaster-stricken areas was minimal.

“We came down here hoping to find out there was nothing wrong in New Orleans,” said Taylor. “We’ve found a few things like E. Coli and heavy metals in the water, but we’re helping units correct their water problems as well. We always try to bring solutions to units about problems that we discover, and we tell them we’ll help them fix it.”

FDPMU East is currently forward deployed to NAS JRB New Orleans as JTF Katrina’s primary preventive medicine authority for DoD relief efforts in the region and continues to work with federal, state, local and fellow DoD personnel to expedite the restoration and maintenance of habitable living conditions in the region.

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