Experts from Monterey's NPS deploy to Haiti

January 15, 2010 7:04:41 PM PST
The military has called up a special team to help get wireless communication systems working in Haiti. The team is from Monterey and it serves as a rapid deployment unit when it comes to establishing lines of communication in disaster zones.

Brian Steckler with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey is not modest about his mission in Haiti. He has what so many on the ground want, communication equipment, and the expertise to make it work.

"Five things are being asked for: food, water, shelter, medicine and communications. I would put communications at the top of the list because you can't coordinate anything else to go in, until you have communications," Steckler said.

Five team members will ship out on Sunday. It's part of what's called the Hastily Formed Networks or HFN. It was first deployed to establish wireless communication in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and again after Hurricane Katrina.

They call Haiti a challenge amid chaos.

"Many streets are impassable at this point. We expect to have big problems with just getting to the places that need communication equipment," Ramsey Meyer from HFN Team Haiti said.

Brian says he'll be taking about $350,000 worth of equipment, including four valuable satellite phones and much more.

"These are antennas that we use to set up the wireless networks," he said.

They're also packing devices that allow for an instant 100-meter wireless cloud for laptop commuting and even flexible solar panels to help power the equipment.

The Naval Postgraduate School Team Haiti anticipates being stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson but is taking tents and camping gear just in case.

The initial military order calls for a 10-day stay, but everyone fully expects the mission to last longer.

"We'll just have to see once we get there and how were employed, and make decisions on the ground," Capt. Brandon Newell from HFN Team Haiti said.

Brian says the task ahead in Haiti will only be matched by the reward of making life saving communication happen.