823rd ESFS continues to provide security in Haiti

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jon McDonald
  • 823rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron
Editor's note: This is part of weekly submissions from the 823rd Security Forces Squadron, who is currently providing security at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

On January 20, approximately 70 airmen from the 823rd Security Forces Squadron made their way through the deployment line and boarded buses bound for Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response.

Our mission was to provide security for the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

When we discovered that the soonest flight to Haiti would be from South Carolina, we headed to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C, with the two charter buses and two trucks loaded with enough gear to sustain ourselves for 30 days.

We arrived and were greeted by Airmen of the 437th Airlift Wing, who helped us store our weapons and equipment. Then, we waited in a nearby hotel for a flight.

Twenty-four hours after eating our last hot meals and sleeping in a real bed, the Airmen of the 823rd SFS prepared to depart the United States.

Months of dedicated training and years of experience in security forces prepared us for what we would encounter as the landing gear skidded to a halt on the small island.

Personnel from the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport's control tower greeted us as our boots first stepped on Haitian soil.

We were also greeted by an Air Force officer from the 26-man team who provided security for the six miles of perimeter and hundreds of daily aircraft and personnel movements.

He was part of the 618th Contingency Response Wing, which had been one of the first groups of Airmen on the ground who helped sustain the relief air operations until more Air Force assets could arrive.

We walked from the ramp to a grassy area no more than 150 yards from the runway where the contingency response group made their camp.

Over the past week, so much time and effort was made to ensuring humanitarian aid reaches the Haitian populace that bed down locations had not been built for additional Air Force personnel.

With midnight creeping upon us and a hard day waiting with the sunrise, we had no choice but to use the grass for a bed.

Shaving from water bottles and beginning our regimen of Meals, Ready to eat, we prepared ourselves to integrate and eventually take over the mission the CRG had started in securing the airport.

Our support personnel prepared the vehicles, bed down, communications equipment and networking capability.

Embedded intelligence personnel began making contacts with aid organizations and other allies that had been on the ground to determine the security situation in the surrounding area.

The security forces personnel of the 823rd SFS began to integrate with patrols and assist in manning the main entry points into the airport.

With a rifle in hand and standing side by side the CRG Security Forces, Haitian police and United Nations Security personnel, the 823rd SFS began their vital mission of protecting the airport.

If food and water were to make it to the earthquake survivors before it was too late, this is how it would be delivered.

If search and rescue missions were to reach the far corners of Haiti, this is where their flights and teams would launch from.

In addition, a field hospital that takes care of critically wounded patients was situated near the east end of the airport. The headquarters for the United Nations mission in Haiti was also moved to the far eastern edge but still rested inside the perimeter.

This patch of land is where the 823rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron stands ready to protect and defend.