News: Troopers use locals' info to improve aid distribution
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
By Pfc. Kissta M. Feldner
2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division PAO
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — Hundreds of locals stood in line, eagerly awaiting their turn to receive food and water from U.S. Soldiers.
Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division distributed 7,200 bottles of water and 750 Meals-Ready to Eat on Jan. 22 to the roughly 1,500 Haitian citizens living in an internally displaced persons camp after losing their homes to the earthquake in Port-au-Prince ten days prior.
This was the battalion's second humanitarian aid drop, which went much smoother than their first, the day prior, said Sgt. First Class Frederick Beckman, a platoon sergeant assigned to A Battery, 2/319th AFAR. The first mission wasn't as organized as they wanted it to be and they underestimated the amount of people in the community, Beckman said.
"We were more prepared today," he said.
Several of the soldiers who were providing aid landed in Port-au-Prince just hours before. "There are guys here who just hit the ground and they're already helping," said Cpt. Jason Alexander, the commander of A Battery, 2/319th AFAR. "I think that's indicative of the 82nd."
Soldiers walk the streets each day, talking to the local citizens, expanding their area of operation, and finding more and more IDP communities. By speaking with community leaders, they gather important information, such has the amount of people in the camp and if anyone is sick or injured. This information helps the soldiers know how much food and water is needed in that camp and what kind of medical attention the people need.
The idea is to identify the areas in need, Alexander said. "We're working our way out slowly."
After finding the camps, however, the ultimate goal is to pass this critical information to Non-Government Organizations providing aid in Haiti. This helps avoid redundancy and spread the aid, he said. "We really want to be able to help the agencies."
In addition to providing food, water and medical assistance, the Soldiers are giving the locals a sense of security, said one citizen. "We feel safe with them here," he said.
"It's important that they know we're here," said Sgt. Jeremiah Elliott, a fire control sergeant with A Battery, 2-319th AFAR. "It's all about getting boots on the ground."
Some soldiers were surprised at the immense damage to the city as well as the number of people who have lost everything. "I think it's worse than they've shown on television," said Elliott.
"It's a mess," he added. "I'm glad to help."