Fleet Hospital 20 Arrives in Guantanamo Bay

Story Number: NNS020125-01Release Date: 1/25/2002 12:17:00 PM
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By Chief Journalist Bill Austin, Fleet Hospital 20 Public Affairs

U.S. NAVAL BASE GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- They dressed in camouflage, ready to take on a mission that will place them in the history books. Sailors from Fleet Hospital 20, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., began arriving the week of Jan. 14, to set up a field hospital designed to treat the Taliban and al-Qaida detainees of Camp X-ray.

Fleet Hospital 20 joins Joint Task Force 160 (JTF-160), a multi-service force already in place providing security for the camp.

Setting up a hospital in the middle of a field is no easy task. Under the sunny Cuban sky, Navy Seabees of Construction Battalion Unit 423, based at Little Creek, Va., first had to clear and level the rocky terrain.

"The Seabees and the Sailors of Fleet Hospital 20 are going to impress a lot of people in the next couple of days," said Lt. Jon Scott, Civil Engineering Corps, officer-in- charge of CBU 423. "We're really good. We have gone through the training to set this hospital up, and we are ready to get the mission done."

At first light on Jan. 22, Fleet Hospital 20 mustered to board the bus that would take them to the work site, where massive metal containers filled with the team's hospital gear peppered the landscape, placed there by the Seabees.

Utilitiesman 2nd Class Wes Beckles of the Fleet Hospital Operations and Training Command at Camp Pendelton, Calif., climbed on top of a container to give the safety brief and set up guidance to the Sailors gathered below.

"Are you ready to build?" Beckles shouted at the end of his brief. A roaring "yes" was their reply. Sleeves were then rolled up and officers and enlisted merged together as one to build their hospital.

"This is really a can-do crew," said Fleet Hospital 20 commanding officer, Capt. Pat Alford, Medical Service Corps, who in normal times is the executive officer of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. "These are all great Sailors and I'm proud to be right here with them."

By early evening, the arduous task of setting up the main tents of the hospital had been completed. Despite the heat, the hard work and the dust, not one Sailor complained.

"I'm so excited to be here," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angela Voelkel. "I volunteered for this. I just wanted to do my part after Sept. 11."

For more information on Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, go to http://lej-www.med.navy.mil.

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