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JTF-Bravo assessment team arrives in Belize following Hurricane Dean

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs
  • Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs
Approximately 20 Soldiers and Airmen from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, deployed here as part of an initial assessment team following Hurricane Dean Aug 21.

The team members were transported via two UH-60 Black Hawk and one CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The team is comprised of a security detail, medics, engineers, search and rescue assets and communications specialists.

Upon arrival, task force personnel took Belizean Defense Force and American Embassy leadership on a two-hour flight to survey the damage from the storm.

"We went north to Corozal and surveyed the damage along the coast," said Army Maj. Michael Angell, task force commander for the mission. "We flew around that town, a couple of other villages, and stopped to pick up three Belizean Defense Force medics and transport them to another location," he said.

Based the initial assessment from today's flight, Major Angell said damage to the country's infrastructure was minimal.

"One village had a lot of roofs blown off, billboards blown over, and that was the extent of the damage," he said.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Prater, a civil engineer deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., flew on the mission with an Automated Route Reconnaissance Kit, or ARRK, to capture video of the potentially damaged areas.

"There was some flooding and trees uprooted," she said, "but even up around the coast it looks good."

During the flight, Sergeant Prater used a hand-held video camera to capture the route of the helicopter. Later, after downloading the data from the ARRK system, she was able to provide detailed photos and video that correlated to a global positioning system location, pinpointing the damage on the map.

Although there wasn't a lot of structural damage that he saw today, the major said the damage to the crops from the wind and flooding could be substantial.

"Agriculturally, they took a huge hit," he said, referring to the extensive damage to the sugar cane fields and papaya crop Belize is known for.

During the mission aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk from the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment at Soto Cano, the surveyors were also able to transport three Belizean medics to a nearby village.

A separate mission aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, also from the 1/228th, transported 26 Belizean Defense Force infantrymen to some of the outer lying areas that have no police or fire/rescue forces, said Major Angell.

The team is slated to fly another survey mission Aug. 22 to determine the other areas that may have potential damage.

"We're going to make more assessments in the morning and make the determination of what assets we need," Major Angell said. "We'll continue to support until they tell us we're no longer needed."