News>Air Force firefighters in Haiti dig through rubble, protect airfield resources
Master Sgt. Bradley Beaty instructs Haitian and Air Force crews on fire truck set up and entry procedures during a recent exercise at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Sergeant Beaty is a firefighter assigned to Scott Air Force Base, Ill.(Courtesy Photo)
Master Sgt. Bradley Beaty,(forefront), works with a Navy Seebee and Canadian firefighters to clear material from a collapsed roof of a shopping area next to the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Sergeant Beaty is a firefighter assigned to Scott Air Force Base, Ill. (Courtesy Photo)
by Karen Petitt
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
3/4/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Twenty-six Air Force firefighters arrived in Haiti more than a month ago and still are protecting airfield resources alongside thousands of other international aid workers providing relief to the country.
Since arriving, they've made significant contributions to providing safe airfield operations and have helped families find closure as the search for remains continues.
"Soon after landing in Haiti and setting up initial operations, Canadian firefighters asked us if we could assist with searching for bodies at the Hotel Montana," said Master Sgt. Bradley Beaty, from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "At the time we knew we were still looking for fellow Air Force member, Maj. Ken Bourland, who had been missing since the Jan. 12 earthquake. So, of course it was important to us that we assist in that effort."
To date, the team has recovered the remains of 15 Americans and the remains of others who were part of the estimated 50 known guests who are still missing at the Hotel Montana.
Major Bourland was a career UH-1 Huey pilot assigned to U.S. Southern Command. He had accompanied Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of USSOUTHCOM, for a routine visit there and had been in the hotel sending an e-mail to his wife when the earthquake occurred. His body was recovered Sunday, Feb. 7.
"I can't describe how awful it is to go through this type of wreckage," he said. "It's an emotional job, but I am glad that at least we are able to give families closure by locating their loved ones."
Air Force firefighters have also helped fix several issues at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The main priority was fixing a broken water line and setting up a fire station to support 20,000 coalition forces and provide resources for the 140 aircraft takeoff and landings each day.
The fire team has worked with contracting vendors to bring in equipment and provide training for 70 Haitian firefighters to increase their operational capability.
"I believe we are here making a difference," Sergeant Beaty said. "So often we train to defend our country or work with coalition partners to liberate or defend other countries, but it is good to put the same training toward the good of the Haitian community."
Recently the team conducted a three-day aircraft egress exercise. They used an old Boeing 727 on the ramp as their training mock up. Through an interpreter, they were able to coordinate a single plan for emergency response between the Haitian and international forces assisting them.
"I feel that we're making a positive difference down here," said Airman Mike Palatucci, from Dover AFB, Del., "The Haitians seem to like us and the Haitian fire department really appreciates the training we've done."
"I have been to a few [under-developed] countries in my career, and I have to say that this one (Haiti) is the worst to date," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Sidoti, assigned to Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J. "We have only been here for a short time, and I honestly feel that we have made an impact on the local community; from helping clean up the city to training the local firefighters on the flightline here at the airport. We may not be able to stay that long to help the infrastructure of the city, but I feel we are doing the best we can in the short amount of time that we have."
In addition to Scott AFB, other bases who sent Airmen to assist in relief efforts are Beale AFB, Calif.; Charleston AFB, S.C.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; Langley AFB, Va.; Dover AFB, Del.; Shaw AFB, S.C., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
3/23/2010 11:49:24 PM ET Pope AFB Firefighters also among the 26 tasked in Haiti.
Zachary Wojcik, 24 ECESCEF CJTF Haiti
3/15/2010 6:37:58 PM ET Keep up the good work. You make us proud and very grateful for your dedication.
L Geissinger, McClellan CA
3/5/2010 9:46:37 PM ET Way to go Fire Dawgs Be safe and come home soon