COTES DE FER, Haiti -- As the roar of the CH-53E Super Stallion came closer to shore, scores of men, women and children began looking to the sky in hope of relief.
As the aircraft from Marine Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced) touched down, crowds ran to gather family members and friends. Within minutes, approximately 300 Haitians formed a crowd around Marines who lined the perimeter of the landing zone.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit provided relief on Haiti's southern coast Jan. 21 to supply aid to a village devastated by the earthquake that rocked the country more than a week ago. This was the first significant aid many residents had seen since the earthquake occurred.
"It's about getting the supplies to the people that need them," said 1st Lt. Kevin Stuart executive officer for Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU. "Some people can't come and get it and some are not in the big cities where the aid centers are. The challenging part is getting the food and water to the people who really need it the most."
Stuart explains that the local Ministry of the Interior workers who joined the distribution contributed to the crowd being calm and understanding.
"We have some people who speak their language, and they help us liaison between us and the locals," Stuart said. "These [Ministry of the Interior workers] are here day in and day out, so having them here working with us is huge because it allows the locals to see that cooperation."
The village was without water and food since the earthquake, Roudy Devil, director of ACDI VOCA, a non-profit aid organization said.
"Before the earthquake happened we were preparing for a hurricane," the Cotes De Fer native explained. "Now we are using those resources to help the people affected by the earthquake."
The Marines brought with them approximately 80 cases of nutritional biscuits and approximately 100 cases of water, some of which went straight to injured earthquake victims who where unable to make it to the distribution point.
According to the only doctor in the village of 3,000 residents, Dr. Marie Michelle Dorceus Rock, there where 23 injuries during the earthquake. With no clinic or hospital, Rock is forced to treat victims at the local elementary school.
"They are happy we are here," said Lance Cpl. John Hercules, translator for the 22nd MEU and native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. "Some of them haven't eaten since yesterday or three days ago. They appreciate the U.S. Marines coming and trying to help them."
The distribution point in Cotes de Fer was established for the day and the Marines from Weapons Company were extracted back to USS Bataan in the afternoon. Cotes de Fer is the second distribution point opened by the Marines from the 22nd MEU in three days. The first location in Leogane, Haiti, west of the capitol of Port-au-Prince, was opened Jan. 19, just four days after the 22nd MEU and the Bataan Amphibious Assault Group deployed to join the relief.
The ships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and embarked elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived off the coast of Haiti Monday to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for earthquake survivors and bolster relief operations already underway in support of Operation Unified Response.
This sea-based force will bring added capabilities to aid the relief efforts without taxing the already strained infrastructure ashore. Comprised of heavy-lift and utility helicopters, trucks and Humvees, assault amphibian vehicles, and logistics capabilities to include water purification and limited medical support, the 22nd MEU will further enhance the humanitarian relief efforts ashore.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.
In addition to Bataan, the Amphibious Ready Group consists of USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron (HM) 15, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 8, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 and Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 2.