Wisconsin Airman Recounts Role in Haiti Relief Effort

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing
Adversity was an immediate challenge.

The day was hot, food was sparse and, as he soon found out, his luggage was someplace in Miami.

This is not a recounting of a vacation gone awry. Rather, this is the beginning of a deployment to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake that shook the island nation to its foundations.

Master Sgt. Craig DeLorme, a pest management supervisor at the 128th Air Refueling Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron, arrived in Haiti on Feb. 23, 2010, for a 71-day deployment to assist in the relief efforts following the earthquake on January 12, 2010.

DeLorme said he traveled throughout the city of Port-au-Prince during his deployment, visiting military camps and the camps of displaced persons to treat water and manage any infestation problems.

"Me and [my co-worker] visited nine military bases around Haiti, where we assessed their pest infestation," DeLorme said. "We walked around, pointed out problem areas and decided how to handle them."

His co-worker, he said, was an Airman from the Iowa Air National Guard, in Sioux Falls.

Not all situations were straightforward, though.

"I couldn't help them as much as I wanted to," DeLorme said, regarding the displaced persons camps. He said supplies were always in short order, and dirty standing water increased the mosquito problem.

"It was a losing battle," he added. "All I could do was drop mosquito dumps into the water."

The amount of refuse and debris created a breeding ground for pest infestations, he said.

Military bases were in a slightly better situation.

"Most of the bases were following what we told them to do," he said. "The bases were set up correctly."

During his time in Haiti, DeLorme said he worked with a variety of military forces. He said he started with an Air Force civil engineering unit, and then moved on to help the Army and Navy with their pest problems. He said he also worked with medical groups, kitchen staff members and various inspectors.

"It was truly a joint task force," DeLorme said.

Not all of the units he helped were from the U.S., though.

"We helped the Brazilians with setting up their shower and getting their water cleaned," he added.

DeLorme said there were several obstacles to overcome while he was conducting his
mission. Meals, Ready to Eat were the only food source for the first week of the deployment, communications within the camps suffered difficulties, and people were generally very busy and couldn't provide many answers to questions he posed, he said.

His response to these challenges, however, was stoic.

"We did the best we could with what we had," he said. "There weren't a lot of complaints."

The master sergeant said his work environment varied a great deal.

"I saw a lot of tent cities," he said. "I saw downed businesses on my way to the camps."

Despite the displacement of people, damage was intermittent, he said.

"You'd see a block of good buildings, then two damaged buildings followed by a few good buildings," he added.

Destruction and pest infestations did not encompass all of DeLorme's experiences, though.

He said he took food to orphanages and helped to hand out the items, which were mostly MREs from camp that people donated from their supplies.

"We went to orphanages because they were safe," DeLorme said. "We couldn't give food on the streets because rioting would break out."

By the end of his deployment, DeLorme said the situation had improved. The improvements, however, were mostly at the military sites, he said.

"There were 15 cases of malaria when we got [to the bases in Haiti]," he said. "There were none when we left."

He said temporary neighborhoods were just getting started when he left Haiti.

Master Sgt. DeLorme said he returned to Wisconsin on May 5, and has since resumed his career as a correctional officer in Oshkosh, WI, the city he calls home.