Marines provide relief from heat in Haiti district
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Staff Sgt. Robert Brumley shook his head in disbelief as he tried to establish some sense of order as several of his Marines tried to distribute fresh drinking water to residents of an impoverished section of Cite Soleil, Haiti.
Residents there have gone three days through intense heat with no drinking water.
As they rushed, buckets in hand, toward the 600-gallon water bull, Brumley shouted commands to get the swarm of people to line up, single file. Marines from Weapons Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines followed suit.
Though no line ever formed, they managed to get some order amid the chaos.
“We’re doing a lot of good here. It’s kind of sad to see these kids, how poor they are and they need clean water so bad,” said Cpl. Randal Hill, 21, with Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, assigned to 3-8 to augment the Marines with 7-ton trucks.
A majority of the population in the northwestern section of the Haitian capital have no running water, said Capt. Roberto Martinez, India Company commanding officer.
“A couple might have fresh water coming from faucets, but they have to pay to use,” Martinez said. Even if they can pay, they don’t always work.”
A few weeks ago, the company began the water distribution program, making runs about five times a week to many of the cities’ destitute areas. At two water points Sunday, they doled out 1,800 gallons.
It’s part of a larger effort to bring humanitarian assistance to the capital, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of different projects, from trash cleanup to visiting local health clinics and schools and [distributing] fuel.”
“The second they find out there’s a corpsman, they want to see the doc,” said HM3 Randy Fuhrman, the medical corpsman assigned to Weapons Platoon. “We see a lot of minor cuts and scrapes and bruises. We try our best, but we can’t help them all.”
It’s all part of paving the way for aid organizations to come in and take over, Martinez said. “Up until recently, they didn’t feel safe.”
The water distribution effort gives Army Sgt. Justin Williams a chance to speak with local residents and collect information and intelligence. Williams’ tactical psychological operations team, part of 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C., highlight for the Marines which neighborhoods need the most help, and show up with loudspeakers mounted on Humvees, blaring Haitian and reggae music.
“They want to see disarmament. They want to see the weapons come off the street,” Williams said. “And they’re concerned about their children, their safety.
“The majority of people … are happy we’re here. There’s a lot of gang activity and they’ve been telling us since we’ve been here, it’s slowed down significantly.”