Salem resident Blayne Kirsch working in Haiti

Blayne Kirsch in Haiti. /Submitted photo

Blayne Kirsch’s home is in Salem, where he lives with his wife, Pam, and their three sons.  But as an engineer who is a civilian employee of the US Navy, Blayne has been in Haiti for the last month as part of a team assessing all kinds of structures for safety and giving other aid in the wake of that nation’s devastating earthquake last month.

Blayne has agreed to share some of his observation and experiences with West of the I readers. His living conditions are what most of us would consider pretty primitive, his workload is very heavy and even in this modern age of instant communications his access to the Internet limited. Our first installment details the whirlwind that brought him to Haiti and some of the team’s first tasks:

I volunteered for Haiti (Up to 180 days deployment) on Wed 1/27. Select by phone notice at home 0730, Thursday 1/28, Thursday (went directly to medical at Naval Station Great Lakes). Told to report to Norfolk 1/29 Friday 0700. Got to Norfolk midnight (1/28), Got on MAC Flight C131 5pm (1/29), arrived Haiti 10pm. Got to our camp site across the street from the US Embassy at Midnight on the 29th (bus parking lot).

We (Naval Facilities Engineers, NAVFAC) are the Engineering arm of the Joint Task Force-Haiti, (JTFH), J7(engineering Code). Twenty five NAVFAC employees 6 uniform and 19 civilian employees came on the 29th and 5 more came 10 days later. JTFH is a combined (Joint) Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard: working for the DOD/State Department/US AID in support of the Haitian government for Earthquake relief which occurred on 1/12. Many NGOs (non governmental organizations), are here providing humanitarian aid. More are arriving now that the Airport opened up for commercial flights a few days ago.

Monday (2/22), I will be going with the US Army 82 Airborne, White Falcons to conduct damage assessments in their Area of Operations (AO) and possibly in the PM with the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate filling in a large quarry with of the earthquake debris.

First week I was here, I conducted road assessments and provided cost estimate for field recovery hospital once Haitians got discharged from the USN Comfort (Hospital Ship) which is still in the Harbor.

Now, past 3 days the Navy is taking over the Damage Assessment coordination and working on getting people back into their homes in the Trugeau Area, with a 30,000 population tent city just east of down town Port au Prince. Hundreds of thousands living in tents, with the rainy season starting in a few weeks and then the hurricane season starts June 1.

A seismologist from the US Geological Survey told me (first week here) that just about every day an earthquake is occurring around an Magnitude of 3. I heard you do not really notice them, except if they occur in the night.

The NAVFAC team here is working 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We will share more as we hear again from Blayne.

An example of the devastation. /Submitted photo


One Comment

  1. EP says:

    what a great guy!

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