24th MEU delivers food, medical supplies and a few smiles
A Landing Craft Utility boat filled with Marines quickly approaches the shore of La Gonave. Anticipation hangs heavy in air almost as heavy as the humidity. The LCU runs aground and the loading ramp quickly lowers - its "go time," but this isn't the amphibious landing of yesteryear with Marines like Smedley Butler storming a beach, like they last did in Haiti in 1915.This time Marines were armed with goodwill alone, carrying enough food to feed approximately 19,000 people and more medical supplies and personnel than the island off the coast of Haiti had seen in a long time, and were greeted by hundreds of smiling Haitians. For the Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, this opportunity, though requiring a great deal of work, was fulfilling in the most human of ways. "It's very satisfying to finally be able to help some folks, do some good, help some patients and assess the damage occurred here from the earthquake," said Lt. Col. Scott D. Sutton, commanding officer, Combat Logistics Battalion-24, 24th MEU. After making liaison with local leaders, Marines and local residents formed an assembly line to off-load all the food and medical supplies. With all the cargo ashore, Marines quickly organized a distribution point, while medical personnel visited the local hospital, often walking hand-in hand with two or three children on either side, to dispense supplies and provide care for the injured or sick. For some, the arrival of these Marines and Sailors was an answered prayer. "After the earthquake we had a lot of problems because we can't save people, we can't help them, and right after the earthquake we said after god we will wait for the American people to come and help us," said Dahame Laguerre, mayor, Anse-A-Galets. "I feel up to this point you have done a good job, because you help the people out of the rubble, give them food and water. Up to this point I absolutely feel you have done a good job and I hope you will continue to help us." Simultaneously, three teams of Marines continued to assess towns in northern Haiti to determine what kind of damage the earthquake caused there and what type of aid is most needed. "We want to take a logical, step-by-step approach to determine where aid is needed and take a focused approach at determining which method are best for getting it there," said Col. Pete Petronzio, commanding officer, 24th MEU. "As soon as we identify a need, we start working on ways to get that need met." While there, Marines and Sailors performed three medical evacuations, taking patients from the island to USS Nassau for further medical care. The MEU will continue to send out assessment teams and providing medical aid to different locations throughout Haitians directed. There is no definitive timeline for the duration of the MEU's participation in Haiti relief efforts.