Ohio National Guard News

From Katrina to Maria:
Previous experience on natural disaster missions invaluable for Ohio National Guard medics helping in Puerto Rico

Story by 1st Lt. Dustin Lawson, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Sgt. Joanna Bradshaw, ONG

Maj. Donald McHone (left), a registered nurse with the 285th Medical Company (Area Support), uses a stethoscope to listen to the breath and heart sounds of a young patient Oct. 28, 2017, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Medical professionals visited the mountain village as part of an outreach program to provide aid to those unable to obtain medical attention following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. McHone is among several Soldiers of the 285th who have also served on previous natural disaster missions, like responses following Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti, which have provided invaluable experience to the team of 285th ASMC medical professionals as they have traveled around Puerto Rico providing a variety of care to residents.


PONCE, Puerto Rico (11/13/17) — Many of the Soldiers of the Ohio National Guard’s 285th Medical Company (Area Support) currently serving in Puerto Rico have been deployed to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo.

A few have also served on previous natural disaster missions. Having Soldiers who have served on similar missions to the current one in Puerto Rico has provided invaluable experience to the team of 285th ASMC medical professionals as they have traveled around the island providing a variety of care to residents.

Two of these Soldiers are Sgt. Michael Mains and Maj. Donald McHone.

Within 48 hours of the earthquake hitting Haiti in 2010, Mains was on ground with the 85th Helicopter Squadron. “I heard Haiti was bad,” Mains said, “but until I got there and saw it, I didn’t know how bad it was. It was complete and total devastation.” His mission was search and rescue. Unfortunately, after the first two weeks, the mission mostly entailed recovering bodies. In Puerto Rico, Mains is serving as a behavioral health specialist. He said that his time in Haiti has given him a perspective that helps him talk to Puerto Ricans during a time when many of them are coping with great loss.

In 2005, within a week of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast, McHone was in Mississippi with the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry helping with recovery efforts. He supported the 1-148th as a medic, caring almost exclusively for Soldiers. In Puerto Rico, he is serving as a nurse, caring nearly exclusively for civilians. “In Katrina, as a corporal, I was told where to go and what to do,” McHone said. “For this mission in Puerto Rico, because of my rank and my experience in Katrina, I can provide help on a broader operational scale.”
Mains and McHone compared the recovery efforts of their natural disaster missions.

“The devastation in Puerto Rico is of a similar level to what it was in Katrina,” McHone said. “Because of being surrounded by water, the logistics are much more difficult in Puerto Rico. But, I hope the citizens of Puerto Rico feel like they are supported and they don’t have to deal with this on their own.”

Mains said he believes that Puerto Rico will recover better than Haiti. “When I left Haiti, I thought it would take that country years to recover,” Mains said. “I believe Puerto Rico will recover much more quickly and will probably be even better than before.”
All military experience is helpful in any mission a Soldier is on, but having Soldiers with experience specifically supporting natural disaster recovery missions has helped the 285th even more so in Puerto Rico.

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