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Where the HARRT is: Response team members return home

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
More than 70 members of the Pacific Air Forces' Humanitarian Assistance Rapid Response Team arrived here Oct. 18 and 19 after a near two-week deployment to Indonesia to provide assistance following a 7.6-magnitude earthquake. 

Airmen from the 36th Medical Group and the 36th Contingency Response Group teamed with Airmen from Yokota AFB, Japan; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; and Hickam AFB, Hawaii during the relief efforts. The deployment took place a mere 25 days after a week-long real-world deployment and validation exercise to Chuuk in September. 

The HARRT team, led by Col. Daniel Settergren, HARRT commander, drew praise from Brig. Gen. Phil Ruhlman, 36th Wing commander, for their dedication and determination. 

"It's absolutely astounding that our Airmen combined with other partners of their joint team were able to turn around in four weeks time [from] a test into a full-up capability, handing out 3,000 prescriptions and saving 2,000 people's lives," General Ruhlman said. "I think it's a testament to the humanitarian assistance disaster response capability that we have here and the ability for our Airmen to respond very rapidly to a crisis." 

Medics set up operations within a couple hundred yards of Djamil Hospital in Padang, Indonesia, and treated approximately 2,000 patients for a variety of injuries and illnesses, providing acute care for more than 1,200 patients, performing more than 30 minor surgical procedures and filling more than 3,500 prescriptions. 

"Their hospital had lots of staff, but their hospital was pretty severely damaged in the earthquake," said Lt. Col. David Olson, HARRT medical commander and 36th MDG chief of medical staff. "From a medical perspective, the HARRT is designed primarily to see ambulatory patients [and provide] outpatient care. [It was] a good match because Djamil's outpatient facility was completely destroyed." 

HARRT members used more than 117 short tons of equipment during the deployment, caring for patients of all ages. 

"We had a good amount of pediatric [patients] and middle-aged adults," Colonel Olson said. "[We didn't have many] young adult patients, but the ones we did see had broken bones and injuries that needed [immediate] medical attention." 

While the medics treated patients, the 36th CRG played a crucial support role, establishing the base infrastructure, processing patients through the treatment tents, breaking down resupply pallets and preparing the materials for transport. 

"I'm glad we got to go over there and help as many people as we did," said Staff Sgt. Sean McDermott, 736th Security Forces Squadron unit scheduler. "I wish we could've helped more. The [deployment] went really smooth. Everyone came together [as a team] and we got along really well, [making] the deployment that much better." 

The HARRT can be called up at any time to deploy in times of crisis, but the families of HARRT team members understand the sacrifice and the impact two weeks' time can have on those in need. 

"Absolutely, it was worth it," said Leanne McDermott, wife of Sergeant McDermott, in regards to her husband's time away from the family. "I think even my kids, as young as they are, would tell you it was worth it. The first couple of days, [our son] Aiden said, 'I really miss daddy,' and I said, 'I miss daddy, too.' [Then] he said, 'But they need him more.' To me, it really hit home that [my children] understood he was helping other people."