PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFNS) -- The bright clothing, smiles and conversation could be taking place in any hospital lobby in the world. Patients are being admitted, treated and released. But a flurry of French and the grinding whirl of a helicopter nearby reveal the reality that this is Haiti.
A brutal sun burns over the tent, while the floor is dust and rock. The patients survived Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake. They've been flown from the USNS Comfort, the Navy's 1,000-bed floating hospital that has been deployed here. A handful of Navy translators are helping survivors to find rides back to their families.
Sailors aboard the Comfort are working at their full operational capacity. Officials say it would take 100 more such ships to treat all of the estimated injured people in Haiti.
Meanwhile, civil engineers from the Kansas Air National Guard are expanding one of the medical triage facilities in Port-au-Prince by assembling an expeditionary medical support hospital.
Many of the Guardsmen were training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when the earthquake struck Haiti. The units deployed to Haiti about two weeks later. The deployment is scheduled to last about four months.
With the hospital in place, medics will be able to ease the workload on the Comfort by performing minor surgery and 24-hour medical operations without transporting patients to the ship.
The guardsmen are also building a helicopter landing pad to help transport severely injured patients to and from the Comfort.
"If there's minor surgery (the patients) can get it here instead of the ship," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert Propes, the liaison officer for the Comfort.
By the end of January, the engineers had set up air-conditioned tents. They plan to eventually provide showers and latrines. There is an informal consensus at the Port-au-Prince airport that the Kansas Air National Guard members are already heroes for bringing those facilities.