UPDATE 2: Behind every photo is story

>The U.S. Marines tell folks that no matter what each individual’s specialty is, they are all first-and-foremost riflemen. The same holds true for our Coast Guard Guardians.

The Coast Guard’s response to Haiti has brought us stories of Machinery Technicians administering first aide and injections to the victims of Haiti’s powerful quakes. Stories of everyday Guardians lending hands wherever they are needed. “This is what we do,” said Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant of the Coast Guard.
Which is why I wasn’t surprised when my staff member, PA3 Brandon Blackwell, emailed the story behind one of his photos I published in a previous post.
The photo (right) came with a standard cutline about helping with relief efforts, but I came to find out that it didn’t even come close to telling the full story of a Guardian who saw a need and filled it. PA3 Blackwell, a humble young Petty Officer, was embarrassed to send me the full story because he thought it was no big deal. “Compared to what everyone is doing down here, it was nothing.”
Besides, he emailed me, Public Affairs Specialists are trained not to insert themselves into the stories.
Well, sorry if this embarrasses him, but it deserves an exception to that rule. In Haiti, it doesn’t matter if you’re there to perform a specific mission, for we are all Guardians in this crisis.
His story starts off at the airport in Port-au-Prince when he is approached by an American doctor desperate for help getting his team of surgeons, nurses and supplies to a Haitian hospital. Here is the text from PA3 Blackwell’s email to his dad the night after the accompanying photo was taken.
“I was walking alone down the airport when an American doctor pulled me aside. He was with a team of 14 surgeons, doctors and nurses that were bringing their skills and medical supplies to a hospital in need north of here, in a place called Diquini.
They had just arrived and said they had no contact with their group and that their transportation had evaporated. They asked me if I could help them find a safe way to get to the hospital.
I first went to a contact I made with the Air Force, who told me a day earlier he could get me air transportation anywhere I wanted. It turned out that hospital had no landing zone and [because of quake damage] it was too dangerous to land a helicopter on the roof there. Then I went to an Army officer, who told me … that it could take up to 24 hours to arrange [for transport].
But there wasn’t any time, because patients were dying, and they needed these specific surgeons immediately. So, I went straight to the 82nd Airborne and started asking around. It turned out that they had no military vehicles running in that zone. So I walked a half mile to the United Nations encampment to try there.
On the way I noticed a clearing of tents being set up for international rescue workers. Each tent flew a different country’s flag. There, I saw some construction vehicles that could easily hold the 14-person team and at least a ton of medical supplies. I approached the Russians first, but they had no fuel. Resources are hard to come by here.
I ended up talking to a search and rescue team from Essex,United Kingdom, and they let me borrow their truck. Long story short, I got the doctor’s team two security personnel and a Haitian navigator to guide the team to the hospital.
Later, the president of the company that sent the medical team emailed me to let me know the team had made it safely to the hospital.”
Bravo Zulu to all of the Coast Guard men and women working on Haitian relief efforts. The world is watching, and once again, the first thing they see are our Guardians!

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