NMCB 7 Air Detachment Seabees Improve Conditions in Petionville for Displaced Haitians

Story Number: NNS100405-05Release Date: 4/5/2010 4:15:00 PM
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By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SCW/EXW/SW/AW/SG) James G. Pinsky, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7's Air Detachment are improving roads and installing engineering controls to improve living conditions for the more than 40,000 residents of Camp Petionville, an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Port-au-Prince.

The engineering work is part of a larger IDP camp improvement program involving eight other camps identified by Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti J7 engineers as needing road and engineering control improvements to mitigate the effects of the pending rainy season that historically begins in mid-April.

"The natural terrain mixed with the numerous impermeable living structures created a situation that needed immediate action," said Camp Petionville project supervisor, Navy Lt. Jason Killian, a Civil Engineer Corps officer deployed to JTF-Haiti via Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington.

"The engineering mitigations will save lives and reduce the overall number of people that need to be relocated by over 17,000."

According to relief workers running Camp Petionville, the Seabees are exactly what the earthquake survivors need to prepare for the rain.

"The Seabees are the wheels, horsepower and expertise needed to save lives here," said Sean Penn, head of J/P Haitian Relief Organization (HRO), the group running Camp Petionville.

Camp Petionville is situated on the base of steep terrain common throughout Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince where the Petionville Club, a nine-hole golf and resort club, resides.

The improvement suggestions come from assessments made by JTF-Haiti engineering experts comprised of NAVFAC, Army Corps of Engineers, Air Fore civil engineers, and the Seabees themselves. JTF-Haiti, along with USAID , non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with the cooperation of the Haitian government, are working feverishly to improve the contours of the land to better handle the impact that Haiti's rainy season will have on Camp Petionville.

"The Seabees are actualizing the foundation [of camp improvements] laid forth by the U.S. military to improve this camp," said Penn.

One of the assets the Seabees, who serve primarily as advisors and mentors to other engineering assets at Camp Petionville, is an all-Haitian labor force generated by NGO-run "cash-for-work" program enabling local Haitians to perform more detailed engineering work like digging drainage ditches and marking paths for road improvements throughout the campsite.

"We're glad to be able to contribute on multiple levels of this project," said Builder 2nd Class Thomas Camara, project crew leader for NMCB 7's Petionville group. "And, that includes mentoring the crews of Haitians to ensure they are doing the work properly and to engineer design."

By utilizing the empowering cash-for-work program, local Haitians are not only helping their fellow countrymen prepare for the upcoming rainy season, they are also helping to stimulate their own economy.

Throughout the camp, residents have grown to embrace the Seabees when they see them make tangible improvements to their new, temporary homes every day. They work side-by-side validating the Seabee motto of "With compassion for others, we build, we fight, for peace with freedom."

Penn, for one, believes in the Seabees. "[They] are investing in prevention instead of responding to death," said Penn, "and right now, down in our camp the Seabees are the dream of what a humanitarian mission is."

The Seabees' work ethic is something noticed by more than just J/P HRO and the Haitians.

"The Seabees are having a huge impact here," said Maj. Gen. Simeon Trombitas, deputy commanding general, JTF-Haiti. "They're the face of America here, and they're saving lives every day."

For more news from Naval Facilities Engineering Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navfachq/.

Equipment Operator 3rd Class Abe Varela supervises a Haitian worker.
100330-N-2653P-002 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (March 30, 2010) Equipment Operator 3rd Class Abe Varela, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMBC) 7, Air Detachment, supervises a Haitian worker who is improving a road that runs through Camp Petionville, an internally displaced persons camp on the grounds of the Petionville Club, a nine-hole golf course and resort in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communications Specialist James G. Pinsky)
March 31, 2010
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