Nightly News   |  January 15, 2010

U.S. military on the march in Haiti

Jan. 15: After hundreds of troops arrived overnight, the U.S. military now has a huge footprint in Haiti. NBC's Ann Curry reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> afternoon reporting on this story. it is unbelievable here. it is numbing and it saps your humanity. ann curry here with us. ann, for these people to get help, talk about the military buildup, they formally took control of the airplane today but this has got to work.

>> reporter: right. as of today, the u.s. military buildup in haiti is huge. this morning, lieutenant general ken keane told us from the army, this is the beginning of a tremendous u.s. effort that will last a long time. america's military is here answering haiti 's call for help . with a steady stream of military hardware, helicopters, c-130s, bringing in medicines, food, water and manpower, and taking out hundreds of americans. the young, the old, and the injured, including missionaries.

>> i love haiti . i would stay longer, but i'm told it's not safe. a great place. people are wonderful there. but it's a sad situation.

>> reporter: the aircraft carrier the " uss carl vinson " is offshore speeding up the delivery of aid, and none too soon says the u.s. coast guard which has been dealing with the impact of this earthquake for days. we are getting a chance to get a close-up look at the challenge the u.s. military is facing. a coast guard boat takes us where cars cannot, to the coast guard base. here coast guardsmen are engaged in a battle to save lives. everywhere you look, people suffering massive injuries, and they keep coming with crushed limbs, severe infections, broken bones . commander john driscoll .

>> we were making splints out of wood, plastic, everything we had on the ship. we took plastic ceilings down to try to help.

>> reporter: because they have no doctors and two medical corpsmen, a computer specialist is giving shots to fight infections. a civil engineer treating a man and a chief cook helping a woman with disfiguring injuries.

>> they haven't talked to a doctor at all. they have been doing everything on their own. they are doing everything from their training. they are going with what they think is best.

>> reporter: no other choice?

>> there is no other choice. they have no other help right now. this is it.

>> reporter: larry berman is a medical corpsman .

>> i have a guy there with a crush wound. he is barely holding on. he's also had his whole face -- we sutured up his whole face and has maggots in the back of his head. we've been working seven hours with this guy, but without a surgeon to take off the arm, we are in big trouble .

>> reporter: they are doing all they can until the " uss comfort " and other medical ships arrive, still a week away, helping the people of haiti hold on. logistics is would haiti lacks. the good news is logistics is something the military can bring here.

>> i don't know how these relief workers are dealing with what they are seeing. the