Revisiting the Haiti Earthquake
To the Editor: This is in response to the article “The Next Day, Everything Was Flat” (October issue) in which Managing Editor Ed Rutkowski interviews Jennifer Hornsby-Myers from NIOSH. Ms. Hornsby-Myers deployed to Haiti with the CDC as a public health liaison to Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-H). While we laud her work, she doesn’t have all her facts straight, specifically regarding the military’s capability to provide pub- lic health support. While she is correct in saying public health is not the military’s primary mission, she completely misses the mark in saying the military doesn’t have many public health assets. The Air Force takes great pride in its robust public health, environmental health and industrial hygiene assets. JTF-Haiti was no dif- ferent with this support. When Air Force Special Operations Command personnel landed in Port-au- Prince on Jan. 13, 2010, there was a public health officer and preventive-medicine physician on the very first plane as part of the team of command and control, combat controllers, and para-rescue personnel to open up the airport and begin search and rescue operations. On Jan. 14, 2010, there was an Air Force industrial hygiene technician on the ground. The three made up what we call a Special Operations Forces Medical Augmentation team and immediately began vector and rodent control, drinking water sampling, hazardous noise characterizations, heat stress monitoring, proper hazardous waste and used oil storage work. Within a week, and then a month, as more conventional forces arrived (called Global Reach Laydown and Preventive Aerospace Medicine teams), more public health and industrial hygiene assets came with the rescue personnel and surgeons. With them came more air, water, noise, and vector sampling equipment, with which they were very busy evaluating and providing advice to JTF leadership on risk control measures. As a force within the Air Force, there are on average 10–20 Public Health Air- men, 10–20 environmental health/industrial hygiene Airmen (the Air Force calls them Bioenvironmental Engineers), and 2– 3 physicians trained in occupational/ preventive medicine at each base around the world, and a smaller number at each deployed location in the Middle East and South Asia supporting our operations. While we can’t speak for the Army, Navy, or Marines (and we hope they comment on this article), we can say without a doubt that the Air Force has many robust public health, environmental health, industrial hygiene, and preventive medicine assets, both at our “home bases” and our deployed locations.
Lt. Col. Philip Goff, CIH, Command Bioenvironmental Engineer for Air Force
Special Operations Command, who provided command oversight for JTF-Haiti Air
Force preventive medicine forces.
Major Rebecca Carter, PhD, deputy flight commander of the 96th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida,
who deployed to JTF-Haiti with a Preventive Aerospace Medicine Team.
CDR Jennifer Hornsby-Myers, MS, CIH
CDC Liaison to JTF-H
United States Public Health Service