Manistee man joins Team Rubicon on Honduras mission

MANISTEE — It is not uncoming for City of Manistee firefighter/EMT Fred LaPoint to provide assistance to people in a variety of ways on a daily basis.

Manistee’s Fred LaPoint (kneeling left) was one of the Team Rubicon members who recently went to Honduras to assist with Operation Continuing Promise.

Manistee’s Fred LaPoint (kneeling left) was one of the Team Rubicon members who recently went to Honduras to assist with Operation Continuing Promise.

When LaPoint learned about Team Rubicon and saw its motto of “Disasters are our business. Veterans are our passion,” he knew it was a good fit for him. The decision is something that recently provided a very moving experience for the local firefighter on a mission to Honduras.

Team Rubicon originated in 2010 using the skills and services of veterans to work in disaster response operations around the world. They have been deployed on over 230 disaster response operations all over the world since that time.

“Our Team Rubicon group went to Honduras from March 13-25 where we were part of Operation Continuing Promise,” said LaPoint.

LaPoint explained that Operation Continuing Promise was Team Rubicon’s first proactive international operation since 2012. During the operation the Team Rubicon group was deployed alongside the United States Navy and U.S. Southern Command in Honduras.

Team Rubicon deployed over 60 members in a mission that began in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, in a team that was made up of physicans, registered nurses, a nurse practioner, paramedics, a dental hygienist, logistic specialists, communications specialists and Incident Command System instructors.

Their mission was to serve as training to better prepare Team Rubicon’s international teams for international disasters as well as finalizing their certification as a World Health Organization Type 1 Mobile Emergency Medical Team. They will be the first non-government organization to receive that designation.

“When we arrived in Honduras it was at San Pedro Sula Airport,” said LaPoint  “We then picked up seven rental trucks then drove an hour to Puerto Cortes where we stayed just outside the city,” said LaPoint. “We worked and taught at the Franklin Roosevelt School in Puerto Cortes where the clinics were set up as well as the field hospital.”

At those locations they were providing instruction and certification of the American Heart Association Basic Life Saver and Advanced Cardiovasular Life Support classes. They also provided medical and dental training along with training of the Honduras civilian healthcare providers on the United States best practices and  technologies.

LaPoint said there were many people seeking their medical and dental services.

One of the things the Team Rubicon members did in Honduras was work with the locals with instruction and certification in the American Heart Association Basic Life Saver and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support classes. Manistee’s Fred LaPoint is pictured in the back right assisting with the training.

One of the things the Team Rubicon members did in Honduras was work with the locals with instruction and certification in the American Heart Association Basic Life Saver and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support classes. Manistee’s Fred LaPoint is pictured in the back right assisting with the training.

“Throngs of people would line up like cattle outside the gates each morning when we arrived,” said LaPoint. “People from all over the country heard about Operation Continuing Promise and would begin lining up at 1 a.m. in the hopes of getting in. Those that didn’t get in the first day would return the next lining up for hours in the 90 plus degree heat with humidity over 85 percent trying to be seen.”

The days were long as they tried to assist as many people as possible.

“The clinic opened at 8:30 a.m. and some days would run until 8 p.m. six days a week,” said LaPoint.

LaPoint said they also got the opportunity to experience some adventure during their stay at Puerto Cortes.

“On Sunday the clinic was closed and team leader Dan Freiber came to us and said he learned of a community in need in a remote jungle village in the mountains,” said LaPoint “They had been without a school building for several years when a tropical storm destroyed the other one.”

However, there was a twist to getting to the area.

“Because of its location, getting materials and manpower to the location was extremely difficult,” said LaPoint. “He asked if the team would like to do something to help these folks even though it wasn’t something we had planned or scheduled for. Of course, the entire team said ‘let’s go and get stuff done.’”

The trip proved to be something right out of an adventure movie that left the crew hanging on tight to their vehicles at several times.

“After a white-knuckle 90 minute drive through dense Honduran mountain jungle on roads that barely qualify as two tracks and about a dozen river crossings, because there was no bridges, we arrived at the village,” said LaPoint.

However, the people were extremely grateful for their efforts to reach them to provide assistance.

“While working there a Honduran family that lived above the school on the mountain was so moved by our helping out that they asked us to join them for a meal,” said LaPoint. “Despite barely having enough to meet their own needs they slaughtered a pig and some chickens and made us the most wonderful feast.”

LaPoint said they tried to give the family some bottled water in appreciation for the meal, but they refused to take it as all they wanted was our friendship.

“It was incredible,” said LaPoint.

The group also traveled to San Pedro Sula where they visited the second largest government-run hospital in the country.

“We taught their doctors and nurses the American Heart Association Basic Cardiac Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support,” said LaPoint. “We also shared some of the best practices as doctors, nurses and paramedics that are used in this country for treating and caring for cardiac and other medical emergencies.”

The experience was one that was life changing for LaPoint from what he saw and how appreciative the Honduran people were for their assistance.

“It was both humbling and rewarding working alongside the U.S. Navy and Army doctors and medics,” said LaPoint. “It was a true honor to be able to serve these disadvantaged and under served people of Honduras. They were extremely grateful and gracious.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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