Engineers draw on Greensburg experience in Haiti

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Emily Alley
  • 190th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
After a hot, dusty day of clearing debris, building tents and doing jobs they've trained for years to perform, civil engineers from the 190th ARW stopped for dinner with other members of the 24th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron. Lt. Col. Mark Green, commander of the civil engineers in Kansas as well as the 121-person squadron in Haiti, joined his Airmen.

The civil engineers hadn't had a day off since they arrived in Haiti. Their weariness was apparent, even under a stunning blood-red sunset. They pulled apart their MREs.

Green paused and said slowly, "It's been continuous, one long day since we've gotten here."

Their accomplishments in Haiti are not unfamiliar. After the town of Greensburg was flattened by a tornado a few years ago, Kansas guardsmen were there, with a humanitarian mission, to clear the roads and set up Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS).

"Having set up EMEDS in Greensburg, we hit the ground in Haiti better prepared," said Master Sgt. Casey Batterton, who is a structures supervisor from the 190th ARW who served in both locations.

"We did mock set ups, a lot of training, but Greensburg was the first real world situation for us to use EMEDS," recalled Master Sgt. Brian Wohletz from the 190th ARW.

Now, the current mission for the 190th ARW is also humanitarian. Wohletz described the perspective he's gained from helping in both the United States and Haiti, "I feel fortunate to have a part in helping people who need it."

Construction has several elements- heavy equipment, power production, and many others - and it takes planning to coordinate all of those specialties. Greensburg also gave the civil engineers a realistic expectation of how quickly they could begin operations in Haiti. The medical team who took over EMEDS spent two days setting up one tent before CE arrived. The Kansas Guardsmen set up a functional EMEDS in a matter of hours.

The team was more thoroughly self-sufficient in Haiti. They had to provide their own power, their own water. There was no home improvement store they could drive to if they forgot supplies.

Master Sgt Carren Christianson, from the 190th ARW, described building EMEDS in Haiti. As her team had finished, the medical commander approached them and declared, "Do you realize what you've just done? You've built a hospital."

Green is proud of the adaptability of his Airmen, "They've learned how to better evolve into a productive team," he said. "It's rewarding to me, as a commander, to see how well they respond. We've proven we're not only valuable for domestic response, but also international."