News: Progress made through new building
Story by Pvt. Samantha Parks
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - As the dust and rubble settled in the days after Jan. 12's earthquake, it was evident that relations needed to be formed between the military, the government of Haiti and the people of Haiti, and that communication between the groups needed to move smoothly.
"From the onset of Operation Unified Response, a partnership was forged between U.S. forces and Port-au-Prince mayor Muscadin Jean Yves Jason and the deputy mayor, Madeje Joachin Augustin," said Army Maj. Mike Farmer, company commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne).
The mayor of Port-au-Prince met with non-governmental organization officials at FOB Falcon but as the drawdown of U.S. troops began they needed another place.
"We hosted meetings on behalf of the mayor and deputy mayor here at our camp [Falcon] because the mayor's building was flattened," said Maj. Eric Flesch, battalion operations officer, 2-325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne). "We knew the only way for us to progress in the city was to get the mayor involved in the joint task force."
Planning for a temporary building that would serve as the mayor's office quickly began. Farmer, along with light equipment engineers from Alpha Company, 2-325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) and troops from Bravo Company, 2-325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), assisted in the planning and building of the civil military operations center.
"Now with immediate relief operations at an end and reconstruction of the city in full swing, the opening of the Port-au-Prince Civil Military Operations Center comes at an ideal time," Farmer said.
One condition in order to build the CMOC was that the supplies needed to be able to stay behind. There was no point in building something if it was going to have to come right back down, Flesch said.
"We used donated material that was all left behind [like] wood from other task forces that had pulled out," Flesch said.
The construction of the building, once all the supplies were gathered and everything was under way, took just one week.
'We're not Seabees; we're not construction guys," Flesch said. "It was a unique challenge for infantrymen."
Flecsh said the construction took longer than expected but that the project was very worthwhile.
On April 16, a ceremony was held officially opening the CMOC and turning it over to the mayor's office. Operations out of the new CMOC quickly began.
"In less than a week of operations the new site has proven effective in increasing the visibility of current reconstruction efforts, and provided increased access to both JTF-Haiti representatives and local civic leaders," Farmer said.
The CMOC was a joint effort between 2-325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), the Port-au-Prince Mayor's office and World Concern, who provided the generator for the building.
The goal was to establish an area, similar to FOB Falcon, for the mayor to hold meetings and move forward, Flesch said.
The main office building contains two separate offices complete with lights, electrical outlets and air conditioning. An additional framed tent beside the CMOC provides the Mayor's office with an extra conference room.
It was a great opportunity to give back to the city, especially after watching the mayor and his office work out of cars since the earthquake, Flesh said.
"We felt like we were contributing back to the community," Flesch said.