LEOGANE, Haiti -- Just one week after a devastating earthquake rattled the infrastructure of Haiti, Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit started their colossal task of helping to rebuild the destruction.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU, delivered food to local Haitians just outside the village of Leogane, Jan. 19-20.
"Right now I think things are going better than expected," said Capt. James Birchfield, Lima Company commander. "We were briefed on a lot of need and desperation, but it's a lot calmer and more organized than we anticipated."
Curious crowds of local Haitians began to form around the perimeter, where Marines established a secure landing zone, as Marines of the BLT exited CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters.
Once all the Marines from the BLT landed and secured area in a nearby cow pasture, Marine linguists interacted with the crowd while others began coordination for the food and water supply drops.
"Right now we're trying to get supplies into the [landing zone], get them loaded onto the vehicles and out to the distribution point," said Staff Sgt. Jason Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant with the company. "We also want to keep the locals out of the landing zone so none of them get injured during the process."
Although all the Marines played a large part in keeping the mission flowing and continuous, the linguists proved to be an essential asset to keep things calm.
"They've been really big force multipliers for us, getting the info out to the people and letting them know what we're here for, really seems to keep them calm," said Birchfield.
One of those force multipliers that helped get the word out to the locals was Cpl. Clifford Sajous. Not only did Sajous act as a linguist, but he is also a team leader with the BLT.
"It feels good to do this kind of work, it makes you feel alive, and gives you a reason to live," Sajous commented. "We're here right now helping people in need and that's something to be proud of."
As a native of Haiti, Sajous got the opportunity to get to know the people as well as inform them about what was going on.
"A lot of them are happy we're here, they're excited and happy that they're going to get some help with food and water," Sajous said. "A few of them actually know my family's name. They know a few of the Sajous' and they were telling me what was going on in my neighborhood."
Sajous wasn't the only Marine to express his excitement to help people. "I'm glad to be here and I like helping people," stated Rodriguez. "Fighting wars isn't the only thing you get to do as a Marine, this type of mission shows the other part of what we do."
As the day wears on, and the sun beats down upon Marines and Haitians, more helicopters land and more supplies are brought into the small village. Although this operation is just the one part of the MEU's mission, it was a successful step in helping to rebuild a country in disarray.