823rd ESFS continues to provide peace of mind for Haiti

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 is 10:45 p.m., so if you're getting up do it now," said Tech. Sgt. Jonothon McGuire, the "wake-up sergeant."

Those of us trying to squeeze in a last few minutes of sleep rub our eyes and roll out of bed.

We quickly get dressed and step out of the tent into the humid Haitian night and walk to the shower tent. When we are done cleaning up, we go back to our tent and gear up. After one last check to make sure we have everything, the lights go out and we began our day of work.

Along the way, we stop at the dining facility to pick up some "meals, ready to eat." When we arrive at the command tent we recheck the schedule to see where we are working and then check the mail list to see if we got a letter or package from home.

The next stop is the communication shop to pick up a new battery for our radios and then to the clearing barrel to arm up. We take a seat around the table and wait for guard mount.

During guard mount, our flight chief and commander pass on information from the previous shift along with those from the staff meeting, as well as the taskings for the night. They ask if we have any questions and upon hearing we don't have any, tell us to, "Go do what you do and be safe."

We slowly rise and walk to our static post or mobile patrol to start change-over. Change-over consists of checking for accountable items, making sure the post is clean and getting the rundown of what happened at the post during the last shift from the Airman leaving shift.

The first few hours of shift are slow, so we set up post and prepare for the day by preparing some coffee and eating an MRE. When this is done, we do the things we were instructed to do during guard mount and get ready for the busy part of the day.

As the sun rises, the airport comes to life. Our duties consist of helping the Haitian security personnel control traffic on the ramp and around other parts of the airport. We also help them keep personnel in authorized areas of work. Where there were once aircraft landing every few minutes, now only a handful of military and commercial planes land in Port-au-Prince each day.

Most military members are now redeploying because their part of the mission is complete or their replacements are here. They will soon return to the United States.

Every few days it seems, another distinguished visitor delegation lands. Typically, the DV tours the city for a few hours, meets with government officials and nongovernmental organizations and gets first-hand updates on the progress in Haiti before returning home.

By the time the sun goes down, there's rarely an aircraft left on the parking ramp and the airport transitions back into its normal nighttime slumber.

At the end of shift, we conduct change-over with oncoming personnel and pass on what has happened since we took post. We then hand over the post or patrol and walk over to the command tent. Everyone takes a look at the schedule to see where they will work the following shift and heads to the clearing barrel to clear our weapons.

We then make our way up the hill to "tent city." At the tent we put down our gear and head out to the picnic table to eat another MRE. We sit at the table for awhile and talk about the day. One by one, we get up to do whatever it is we do during our personal time.

During our free time and on days off, we find ways to pass the time. There is an internet café to check our emails, and satellite phones for us to use to keep in touch with family and friends. We also watch movies, read, do laundry and prepare for the next work day by getting our gear together and cleaning our weapons. We conduct individual physical training on the designated running trail and at the "gym," where military personnel have made makeshift workout equipment out of whatever they can find.

This is a typical day for an 823rd Airmen at Toussaint L'Overture International Airport in Haiti's capital, Port-Au-Prince. We have seen many things change over the two months we have been here; including the re-opening of International flights, structures being rebuilt, and Haitian personnel taking control of their airport. We have also seen a draw-down of fellow Airmen who've been sent home. The 823rd ESFS will continue to do our part until we too can join our fellow Airmen already at home.