LEOGANE, Haiti -- While food and water re-supplies continue to be an integral part of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's contribution to aiding those who lost so much in earthquake stricken Haiti, the 22nd MEU has also begun to offer other aid to Haitians.
Medical doctors and corpsmen from Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU, conducted site surveys and delivered various medical supplies in Leogane, Haiti, Jan. 22-23.
"As corpsmen, our main mission is ensure that Marines are taken care of and healthy, but in this situation, we're here to also aid the Haitian people anyway we can," said Chief Petty Officer Kenny Mathiesen, leading chief petty officer for the BLT.
Although the BLT corpsmen have limited resources they can give the Haitians, they are doing all they can to lend a hand in a time of need.
"Yesterday, we went to a local medical clinic and delivered various antibiotics, some surgical supplies and gauze," said Navy Lt. Matt Swartz, surgeon for the BLT.
"Our job is to also act as a liaison, we find out what the people need and we either supply them with it, or we try to find the right people who can give them what they need," Mathiesen said.
Leogane is a rural area of Haiti, not like Port-au-Prince, which is covered by other organizations; countryside areas like Leogane are in need of medical help and they do what they can to help, Swartz, a native of San Francisco, explained.
Humanitarian missions like this, give corpsmen an opportunity to experience something different from the hostile environments of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This is a big change," said Mathiesen, a native of Leesville, La. "Instead of just looking after Marines, we are now able to help give some life back to the people of Haiti."
"This is very rewarding personally and professionally, it's what we do and it's one of the reasons I became a doctor," commented Swartz. "Our other corpsmen are also excited to get the chance to help those who need it. It puts a spin on what we do and shows more than just the things we do in places like Iraq and Afghanistan."
Not only are 22nd MEU corpsmen offering supplies to the Haitian people, they are also working to ensure they are properly trained and will be able to sustain themselves once outside assistance decreases.
"Since we're operating in [an under developed] country, the need for assistance will always be there, but we want to try to help make sure they have more than just the right tools, Swartz stated. "Our goal is to set them up for long-term success. Along with the tools we want to make sure they are receiving the proper training, because at some point we'll leave and we want them to be able to continue to sustain themselves."
As the corpsmen from the 22nd MEU load up and the day's mission draws to a close, it is clear to see that assisting the sick and injured people of Haiti will be no small task, but they are prepared to lend a helping hand in any way possible.