By Sgt. Richard Andrade
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — U.S. Marines train to protect U.S. embassies around the world, and when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, the 1st Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team was called in to assist their fellow Marines already guarding the U.S. embassy in Haiti.
The Marines have to endure the heat and humidity to assist the Haitian police forces making sure the crowds outside the embassy do not get unruly.
"I make sure they are hydrating while they are on their guard shift, maintaining accountability of their equipment and make sure their morale is high," said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Fernando Elallanos, platoon sergeant for Alert Contingency Platoon 6, 1st FAST, from Norfolk, Va.
Marines have to maintain their military bearing and be patient with the Haitians that are in the crowded line outside of the embassy eager to get inside.
"Discipline is the biggest thing that you have to maintain with the platoon, and that falls on the platoon sergeant," said Elallanos.
"The Marines are not only providing security for the embassy but providing security for the Haitian-American citizens who want to fly back to the United States," said Elallanos.
Marine Cpl. Shane Hulshol is a squad leader with ACP 6, 1st FAST, Norfolk, Va. Even after many days in the grueling heat, Hulshol said, "My Marines have been out bustin' their butts for the last three weeks, their morale is high and I'm extremely proud of what we have been doing," said Hulshol.
Marine Cpl. Justin Schrantz, an infantryman from the ACP 6, 1st FAST, Norfolk, Va., said that the Haitian people are happy to have the Marines here. "Whether it is one person or twelve people, they shake our hands, or they tell us, 'We love you,' 'Thank you for being here,'" he said.
The Haitian mission was an unpredictable one, and many service members did not know what to expect, but just by the Marine's presence alone both Haitians and Americans feel safe walking to and from and working in the embassy.