Task Force Bon Voizen civil affairs team informs citizens

Medical, dental services set to begin in Artibonite Department in early May

By Sgt. 1st Class Paul C. Meeker
Task Force Bon Voizen Public Affairs

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Informing local populations of upcoming engineer and medical/dental missions beginning in May to the residents of Artibonite Department is an important priority for Col. Kenneth Donnelly, commander of Task Force Bon Voizen, New Horizons Haiti – 2011.

Donnelly, a Louisiana Army National Guardsman, tasked a five-man civil affairs team with Kreyol and French language skills, to go to the town of LEstère in the Artibonite Department on April 24 and speak with one of the parish priests, Perè Previlon Isaac, who serves in the task force operational area, about the medical missions soon to commence in Petite Desdunes and Bocozelle.

“Its important for us to inform local citizens of our involvement in their community. Were guests, so we dont want to spring anything on anyone that is not fully understood and supported,” said Donnelly. “Our success in providing effective medical evaluation and treatment hinges on local buy in.”

It was critical that the civil affairs team of Capt. Wesly Leandre, Florida Army National Guard, Capt. Yves Raoelina, 1st Lt. Gregoire Metellus, Master Sgt. Mark Rayne and Staff Sgt. Dimitri Emilien, all four U.S. Army Reservists, share the mission goals with Isaac on Easter Sunday, April 24, since they had been advised that between 200 – 300 congregants might attend afternoon Mass.

“Here in Haiti, what matters is word of mouth when it comes to getting information out to the people,” said Emilien, who was born in Haiti and raised there until age 17.

Isaac was receptive to the mission goals that the civil affairs team provided him. He agreed to share the news with his congregants later that afternoon, according to Leandre, the senior member of the team and also a native of Haiti.

Getting the priests cooperation was not the only mission for the civil affairs team that day. Getting a sense from locals about how such a mission might be perceived was also critical.

“People can know what were about, why were there and why we want to serve them. Its important for us to know how they perceive our mission and if theres anything additional we need to do to alleviate their concerns,” said Leandre.

Indeed concerns raised by two locals, Alcenat Magré, parishioner at the church and rice farmer, and Joseph Ricout, an employee of the church, were important for the task force to hear. Both expressed support for the mission, but worried that too many needy citizens could affect the conduct of the mission.

“I know youre here to see whats needed and to see what you can do to help, but one problem you may face is that people may want to get in line more than once,” said Magre.

“People will come from everywhere and stay overnight like they did after the earthquake. People waited in line for three days,” added Ricout.

Donnelly appreciated the situational awareness he received from the task force civil affairs team. While the concerns raised by the locals had already been anticipated, realizing they were community concerns reinforced the task force planning and execution process, Donnelly said, after he was briefed by the civil affairs team upon completion of their mission.

New Horizons Haiti 2011 – Task Force Bon Voizen is a Commander, U.S. Southern Command sponsored, U.S. Army South conducted, joint foreign military interaction/humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. Task Force Bon Voizen is deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Haiti for training and to provide humanitarian services. Task Force Bon Voizen will build a school, two medical clinics and one water well/latrine facility, as well as staff three medical clinics and one dental clinic between April 28 and June 25 in the Artibonite Department.
Please visit: Task Force Bon Voizen on FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/tfbonvoizen for the latest New Horizons Haiti 2011 news and imagery.

L’ESTERE – 1st Lt. Gregoire Metellus, a member of a Task Force Bon Voizen civil affairs team, U.S. Army Reserve, visits with residents of L’Estere at the Catholic church, April 24, 2011. Metellus, a Kreyol speaker, was there to share information about upcoming task force medical missions with the parish priest who serves that area. New Horizons Haiti 2011 – Task Force Bon Voizen is a Commander, U.S. Southern Command sponsored, U.S. Army South conducted, joint foreign military interaction/humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard.  Task Force Bon Voizen is deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Haiti for training and to provide humanitarian services. Task Force Bon Voizen will build a school, two medical clinics and one water well/latrine facility, as well as staff three medical clinics and one dental clinic between April 28 and June 25 in the Artibonite Department. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Paul Meeker, Task Force Bon Voizen Public Affairs/Released)

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