Fort Bragg soldiers to provide medical support in St. Thomas

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Fort Bragg soldiers to provide medical support in St. Thomas

Fort Bragg soldiers from the 44th Medical Brigade deployed to St. Thomas Wednesday to help those affected by Hurricane Irma.

"From the pictures I've seen, it's [really damaged], but anything I can do to help and get them back to where they need to be so they can live life normally, I'll do whatever I can to help them," said Sgt. Dijion McEachin.

The 602nd Area Support Medical Company, 261st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, is deploying its entire company of about 80 soldiers to provide medical support at the local hospital. About 10 Fort Bragg soldiers arrived Tuesday, some deployed Wednesday, and the rest are expected to deploy Thursday.

The Category 5 hurricane battered the island when it made landfall last week.

The soldiers are setting up at Schneider Regional Medical Center, which was badly damaged by the storm.

RELATED: St. Thomas regains some services, residents decide whether to rebuild


"We saw an MRI machine and what would normally be a suite for that and the entire wall to the right side of that MRI machine was gone, so that was exposed to the direct outside environment," said Lt. Col. Aric Bowman, adding that the roof of a nursing station was completely torn off and had cables hanging down.

Lt. Col. Kate Hinkle is an army infectious disease doctor and said they'll be able to treat illnesses from contaminated waters, if needed, and provide medications for people who haven't had access. That includes medications needed to treat conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

She said they'll also respond to, "Post-storm injuries, accidental injuries, as people are trying to rebuild and recover and even potentially skin and soft-tissue injuries, wounds, infections."

Fort Bragg officials said they'll be able to help evacuate patients, treat medical emergencies and deliver red blood cells, perform some X-rays and provide dental services. It is unknown how long the soldiers will be there, but officials say it could be 30 to 60 days.

For First Sgt. Rafael Colon, this mission hits close to home.

Irma impacted his family in Puerto Rico.

"I wasn't able to talk to my mom for about a week," First Sgt. Colon said. "Once I did regain contact with her, she explained to me that my sister still doesn't have power."

First Sgt. Colon can relate to what the people of St. Thomas are experiencing. He and his family were in Puerto Rico in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo made landfall.

"I have vivid memories of standing in line for hours and running underneath water tankers to try to get water," he said.

Now, he and other members of the 44th Medical Brigade will be able to provide life-saving help to hurricane victims.

"It makes me feel emotional and happy because this is what we've all been training for," he said.

Related Topics:
hurricane irmafort braggfort bragg newsFort Bragg
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