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Fort Bragg Troops Head South to Honduras

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FORT BRAGG — Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras last week, leaving in its aftermath 6,000 people dead and nearly 1 million homeless. Mud slides have washed away most of the country's roads and bridges, and entire villages have been isolated by flooding.

On Sunday morning, 39 U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Bragg answered the call for help coming from Honduras when they deployed from Pope Air Force Base to provide medical and emotional support to those devastated by the storm.

Soldiers have been told to expect the unexpected.

"The country sounds like it's in a total shambles," said Lt. Col. Ron Buryk. "Probably a lot of death and destruction from what we've heard on television and what we've been told."

Twenty-two of the soldiers belong to the combat stress control detachment. They will help hurricane victims, disaster relief workers and other U.S. troops deal with the aftermath of the storm.

"[We are going] primarily to deal with the mental health and dimensions of dealing with a disaster, the dead bodies, the homelessness," said Pvt. Brendan Davis.

Disease is also a serious concern. The troops are taking anti-malaria medication and they have received half a dozen vaccinations for diseases such as rabies, plague and typhoid.

"We're going to really take a look at the infrastructure in the country, in terms of the water, food, the bug issues, the potential for epidemics," said Maj. Mike Swalko.

Some of the soldiers will be putting their training to work for the first time. Others have just returned from overseas deployments such as Bosnia, and must now say goodbye to their families again to leave on an assignment that will last at least 30 days.

"My son here is one year old, just turned one a couple of weeks ago, and I'm gonna miss him, and I'm gonna miss my wife," said Maj. Michael Cohen.

More C-5 transport planes are scheduled to leave Fort Bragg on Monday and Tuesday. Members of the 18th Aviation Brigade will be onboard, along with two Blackhawk helicopters and supplies.

The U.S. military has already flown more than 140 missions in Honduras. It has rescued hundreds of people stranded by flooding and transported 575 tons of relief supplies.