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Standing guard
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Senior Airmen Charlotte Miller and Alexander Parrilla, 823rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron entry controllers, stand post here at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where they have been helping provide security since Jan. 28 when an earthquake hit. (Contributed photo/RELEASED)
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Just another day in Haiti

Posted 5/11/2010   Updated 5/11/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Senior Airman Alexander Parrilla
823rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron

5/11/2010 - PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti  -- (Editor's note: This is a part of the weekly submissions from the 823rd Security Forces Squadron, which is currently providing security at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.)

It began just like another day in Haiti. It didn't seem different, but it turned out to be not so ordinary.

Senior Airman Charlotte Miller and I, both 823rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron members, were posted as entry controllers at the west gate of the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport, Port-au-Prince's Haiti. While performing our regular duties of crowd and entry control, we were confronted with an irregular situation that involved the welfare and well-being of an individual's life.

We have been providing security here since Jan. 28 and both have experienced our fair share of the weird and unusual- strange sights are common at the west gate.

Security Forces Airmen posted at the west gate are responsible for checking vehicles and personnel for proper identification as well as authorization to enter and exit the airport. Airmen perform these duties while simultaneously interacting with the public.

The citizens adjacent to our post are mostly street vendors who own shops along the four lanes of commuting traffic. It is a dangerous setting for Haitian locals due to busy traffic, reckless driving, damaged roads and many pedestrians, but it is an everyday fact of life here.

On this day, we suddenly heard the sickening "thud" of an impact against a human body, the screech of tires and wailing screams of a pedestrian almost simultaneously.

When we took a look to see what caused it, we saw a woman's body lying motionless in the street while Haitian bystanders looked and then continued on with their daily lives.

In the blink of an eye the ordinary day had become anything but ordinary.

I immediately contacted the "Jester" tactical operations center and told them to be advised that a Haitian national had been involved in an accident and the individual appears to be critical. The accident was in plain view of the gate but not within my directed area of responsibility.

Reacting immediately, I took the assigned interpreter and moved quickly across the street to provide assistance. Airman Miller remained at the gate to provide over-watch and provide entry control and security.

Taking control of the situation, I flagged down a passing United Nations patrol and posted them to cordon the area and help control the speeding traffic. I then checked the injured woman's status with the aid of the interpreter.

She was starting to regain consciousness and was attempting to move. It was apparent she had sustained a head injury and she appeared to be in shock. There was a distinct possibility she had internal injuries as well.

I instructed her not to move until medical help arrived to prevent further injury. When the military ambulance arrived, Airman Miller stopped traffic while I created a safe path for the medics to cross the street.

The medics quickly assessed the patient's status and expeditiously evacuated her to the disaster relief hospital, located at the opposite end of the airport. We continued to provide essential crowd and traffic control until the medical team transported the victim away.

While critically injured, the woman survived because a few Airmen took immediate action. In a country that has recently experienced so much loss, seeing the commitment of U.S. military members to the safety and protection of its citizens paints a clear picture of why the U.S. is here.

This day is indicative of what we do here- hours standing a static post in the heat and dust punctuated by moments that require clear judgment and the swift application of our training.

Just another day in Haiti, indeed.

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