Ohio Task Force One ready to depart to Haiti from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — An 80-member urban search and rescue team is packed and ready to go here, in case their unit will be the next to fly into earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Ohio Task Force One is composed of volunteer members from throughout Ohio and northern Kentucky, highly-trained people anxious to provide search and rescue for those trapped under collapsed buildings due to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti Jan. 12.


When they leave Ohio and land in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, the team will be completely self-sufficient. The nearly 60 tons of cargo they will take with them includes six rescue canines, four pick-up trucks with trailers and a van.

The 19 pallets of cargo contain search cameras, hammers to break through concrete, water and food.

The team has enough supplies to conduct efforts for about 10 days.

“We’ve been tasked to be on readiness alert to deploy into Haiti at a moment’s notice,” said Doug Cope, the task force leader.

After spending the night in lodging at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Jan. 14, the team was awakened with news that two Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs would arrive Jan. 15 to take them to Haiti.

Cope said he assembled and briefed the team, but then got word that the jets were re-tasked to another priority mission to provide American aid to the people of Haiti.

“This is a very fluid situation,” said Col. Tim Donohue, the commander of the 88th Mission Support Group at Wright-Patterson AFB.

Donohue said it’s not at all unusual for the flow and sequencing of airlift to change in the early stages of a large-scale humanitarian effort, to ensure whatever is most urgently needed at that moment gets to the destination.

In this case, the destination is Port-au-Prince International Airport, where a growing cadre of airmen and joint service members are helping establish a vital life-saving mobility hub.

Donohue described the Air Force effort supporting the U.S. Southern Command as part of a larger American response coordinated by the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Ready for service.

In the meantime, Cope’s urban search and rescue team hopes their turn to deploy will come soon.

“We’re here for the long haul, until we get demobilization orders from Washington,” Cope said. “We’re planning on leaving the equipment as it is packaged and ready to go.”

Task force. The majority of Ohio Task Force One members are firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The team also includes physicians, paramedics, structural engineers, hazardous materials specialists and canine teams trained to locate those who are trapped, rapidly extricate them and provide emergency medical care.

When they arrive at a disaster area, members often work in six-person squads.

The OH-TF1 is one of 28 highly-trained incident response rescue teams throughout the U.S. that support the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“All of the information we’ve been getting from our counterparts that are on the ground from the Virginia and California teams — as well as news reports we’ve been seeing on the national outlets — is there are a lot of rescues being made and there are still a lot of people that are trapped and entombed in these buildings that are viable victims that could be saved.”

Other deployments.

The Ohio team deployed in September of last year to support response efforts following Hurricanes Gustaf and Ike. Also, Ohio Task Force One’s capabilities were fully engaged at New York’s Ground Zero following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


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