Coast Guard Cutter Legare operates in Haiti to bring relief to earthquake victims

MIAMI – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Legare, homeported in Portsmouth, Va., spent six days operating in Port-au-Prince harbor conducting medevacs, providing waterside security and working with the Haitian coast guard in support of Operation Unified Response Jan. 21 through 28, 2010.

While in Haiti, the Legare crew coordinated 40 helicopter medevacs from Killick Haitian coast guard base to shore and ship hospitals, refueled 23 helicopters involved in conducting medevacs and providing logistical support, and conducted waterside security patrols with the Haitian coast guard.

The Legare crew coordinated with U.S. Coast Guard and Navy helicopter pilots to complete the medevacs. Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery Simonds, an electronics technician aboard the Legare, and a Courtland, Va. native, said that the patients waiting to be transported didn’t complain, despite the severe injuries and dehydration.

“They just took things in stride,” said Simonds. “They just waited for the helicopter to come and carry them away.”

The small boat crew from the Legare worked with Haitian coast guard boat crews to help increase the Haitian coast guard capability to operate.

“When the Haitian coast guard first started doing their patrols again and more members began wearing their uniforms around the base, that’s when I knew they were getting back on their feet,” said Ensign Timothy Hurst, a Fayetteville, Tenn. native and an officer aboard the Legare.

In addition, more than 15 Legare crewmembers a day deployed to the Killick coast guard base to make repairs to the base to allow it to operate. Legare crewmembers cleared rubble, repaired base drainage, set up temporary cooking equipment, acted as dock masters, repaired broken communication equipment and provided food to Haitian coast guard members. The crew also unloaded more than 10-tons of relief supplies from U.S. landing crafts.

While on shore, the crew had an opportunity to interact with the Haitian people who were at Killick being treated with injuries and many were affected by what they saw.

“It was the kids with all sorts of injuries who were coming to the base,” said Lt. Mike Dykema, the engineering officer aboard the cutter and Portsmouth, Va. native. “I have four kids so it hits home. We brought candy to the base and passed it out to the kids to help ease whatever pain or suffering they were in.”

Seaman Jess Duncan, a Gastonia, N.C. native, said that seeing the rubble on the coastline reminded him of why he joined the service.

“I joined the Coast Guard for the search and rescue mission, so I was really anxious to come and help in Haiti. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the joint effort like I saw there. It was a worthwhile experience,” said Duncan.

The Legare’s crew is made up of 14 officers and 85 enlisted personnel. It is one of six 270-foot cutters stationed in Portsmouth, and is regularly deployed on search-and-rescue missions, law enforcement activities and homeland defense patrols.

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