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Haiti: A rewarding experience

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Matthew Hubby
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Haiti, the small island beset by terrible earthquakes in January 2010, was the target of aid from many countries around the globe, not the least of which the United States, it's neighbor to the north.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and the massive earthquake, which shook it down to its very foundations, did all it could to make it worse. It was during the rush of aid many military members volunteered to assist Haiti.

One such individual was Tech. Sgt. Juan Torres, 436th Logistic Readiness Squadron assistant non-commissioned officer in charge of vehicle management and analysis. He was one of the last Airmen to leave Haiti, taking the very last Air Force C-17 Globemaster III out of Haiti and back home to the United States.

"It was really a lesson in humility," said Sergeant Torres. "You really didn't know how bad the disaster was until you laid your eyes on it. It really made you appreciate what you had back home, your family, your home and food when you want it. It really put into perspective how great we have it here in the U.S."

Sergeant Torres worked as the 24th Air Expeditionary Group fleet manager and was responsible for 103 pieces of Air Force vehicle assets and in charge of rental leases worth more than $200,000. He volunteered to assist in body recovery at the Hotel Montana and was part of the team that recovered the last body from the structure.

"Being part of that team really made 'Leave no Airman behind' real," said Sergeant Torres. "I won't forget anything I saw there, but it wasn't all bad. We volunteered at an orphanage while we were there, gave them candy and provided them with security when the food aid came around. We practically adopted all those kids, we helped restore their building and made sure they had clothes and toys."

"In fact, this trip was one of the most rewarding of any deployment or temporary duty assignment I've been on," said Sergeant Torres. "At the end of the day, I always wished I had more time, to go out and help more people, but I knew I'd done good that day, and that helped."

During the turmoil in Haiti emotions were running high, and Sergeant Torres said the biggest thing he felt his group being there did, besides providing aid and security, was giving the region stability to not allow the emotions to get too heated.

"There was a lot of frustration and anger from the people there," said Sergeant Torres. "Some people felt we weren't doing enough to help out, and there were nights where you could hear gunshots in the dark. What saddened me most was seeing the children have to go through these ordeals. As a father of three little girls I can't even begin to imagine my daughters having to go through such trials."

"We took it as a challenge to help all of those we could," said Sergeant Torres. "In my 11 years of service I haven't seen any group of people worker harder to provide care and aid for anyone as the group I was with in Haiti. We did all we could, to the best of our ability and then some. That was our job, and we did it well."