Published: 2017-09-15 17:23:00
Updated: 2017-09-15 19:00:17
Posted 5:23 p.m. Friday
Updated 7:00 p.m. Friday
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — Hurricane Irma is gone, but the rain is still falling in St. Thomas, which makes working on the ambulances a bit tougher for Fort Bragg’s 602nd Evacuation Platoon.
"It's the first time I've had to do it in the rain," one soldier said.
The soldiers understand, though, making sure the military ambulances are in working order is key to their mission on St. Thomas.
"We're here to assist them and train them," said Spc. Derrick Bumgardner. "I actually feel honored and humbled to come out here and help U.S. citizens with any issues that they have medical-wise."
The 602nd Evacuation Platoon works closely with the emergency room at the local hospital. The soldiers’ job is to evacuate patients needing additional care that the Schneider Regional Medical Center currently cannot provide.
"Our job pretty much starts the second we get on the ground," said 2nd Lt. Joshua Rodin.
Rodin said the assignment helps his soldiers make a difference and gives them real work experience.
"It's exciting to finally be able to put this into the real world," Rodin said. "A lot of people train their lives for a mission like this but don't get to execute. It's exciting."
This is the first time since 2008 that the soldiers with the 602nd Evacuation Platoon were called into action for a humanitarian mission after a major storm. The last time, the troops were sent to Haiti.
Darryl Smalls, who is in charge of the hospital's facilities, said the hospital is currently only acting as an emergency room.
"The western side of teh facility took teh brunt of the storm," he said. "A window blew out and we had patients in here at the time."
The 602nd was working with the hospital to improve its functionality and patient care.
"Right now we are integrating our staff, our doctors, PAs, nurses," said 1st Lt. Carolina Johnson.
The hospital currently has no patients.
On Friday, it was taking manpower to keep up with the water leaks.
"Its just so much water being inundated on a daily basis," Smalls said.