My Team

During the first week of my deployment to Haiti with World Vision (WV), I met my security team. Without a doubt, this was one of the finest teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with. A team of four initially, consisting of my personal assistant, Dominique, Gilbert, Julius and Alex. In time, Billy would round out our security team.

When Gilbert figured out that I was a Marine, he awarded me the nickname of “Gibbs” from the TV series, NCIS. Now, I look absolutely nothing like Mark Harmon, but I was honored just the same. This of course spawned across the team eventually. Each member of my team held a nick name from the TV show, as follows:

  • Dominique, my personal assistant – Abby
  • Gilbert, Field Security Officer – Denozo
  • Julius, Field Security Coordinator – Ducky
  • Alex, Field Security Officer – Zeva (I had no other female members in my team)
  • Billy, Field Security Officer – Proby

This completed the entire series and we also rebranded our name to suit. As NCIS, we became known as WVIS (#WorldVision International Security). We bonded very quickly into our unit and were quickly recognized to our professionalism amongst the other units.

Two of us were international staff, Julius being from Uganda. Julius was my go to for documentation and working up the security risk assessments. Gilbert was the man to whom I went to if I needed a who’s who. I think he knew everyone in Haiti.

Alex, may he rest in peace, was my trouble maker in the office. He spoke freely his mind and was a great asset when it came to dealing with our warehouses and security guard forces. When I hired Billy he quickly became a solid addition to our team. He, like Gilbert, had a great list of connections and got stuff done.

Alex, may he rest in peace, was my trouble maker in the office. He spoke freely his mind and was a great asset when it came to dealing with our warehouses and security guard forces. When I hired Billy he quickly became a solid addition to our team. He, like Gilbert, had a great list of connections and got stuff done.

But our team would not have functioned as well as it did without Dominique. Everyone knows that a great assistant is the backbone of any team. Dominique was by far brilliant in her job and my greatest asset. She worked diligently day in and day out and never seemed to tire. We were definitely blessed to have Dominique on our team.

Dominique
Dominique (Abby)

We had a nice little corner office location in the response office in Petionville. Our office allowed us to overlook the second-floor office area. This included immediate access to the response manager’s office.

The Response Team

The response team was a collective of 79 international staff when I arrived. This number went as high as 121 at its peak. By far, WV had one of the largest international presences during this response. Other INGO’s such as Samaritans Purse and MSF also had large numbers, possibly equaling us.

The response manager when I arrived was awesome. JC (Congolese) and I immediately clicked, and as mentioned, I had met him earlier with the kidnap issue. The response operations director, Heather was a lot of fun to work with. But what Kiwi isn’t fun to be around!

Sadly, as in any response, there was a great deal of turnover. Heather, JC and the global rapid response team (GRRT) members left during May. I learned a lot about this GRRT, it seemed fascinating, deploying in for a three-month period, then gone.

Our new response manager, Ton was a tall Dutchman and true to the Dutch sense. I really did enjoy working for him, although at times his methods may have been a bit quirky. We also had a new Operations Director who took over from Heather, Nicole from Costa Rica.

The Perks

My role as security manager for the Haiti response came with a few perks. Unaware at the time what kind of animal #WV was, I was about to learn. On my first day, Gilbert handed me the keys to a beautiful 2010 Toyota Hilux. This would be my personal vehicle for the duration of my deployment.

So, with this new toy, I quickly became accustomed to driving in Haiti. Now, if anyone has been to Haiti, you know the traffic! My goal was to ensure that the truck was always in new condition and I was successful. Imagine, having independence in this island nation, especially on weekends. I am sure you can imagine where my weekends were spent…Indigo and other discovered beaches.

This certainly did not feel like a hardship post, although, Haiti does have its security concerns. On top of having the vehicle and freedom to enjoy the beaches, I had my R&R. Once every 6 weeks I would fly up to Florida. This was usually a five day all expenses paid vacation. Additionally, once every 12 weeks I would have a paid trip home.

The Budget

It is hard to operate any business unit without a good budget. I have managed budgets in the past, but never a WV budget. My assigned allotment was just short of one million dollars, US. This was for the year. Now, in WV terms, one million is absolutely nothing. WV is, after all, a $3.5 billion a year organization.

So, what does one do with a million-dollar budget? Well, we find a way to spend it. Good #security is not cheap, and if you know Haiti, nothing is cheap. We did have our office well equipped and there were many items purchased prior to my arrival. One such disappointment was the 200 Motorola GP380 portable radios. At $800 a unit, these sat on shelves and in their boxes the entire time I was deployed. It was not that we could not use them, there was just no requirement.

We had 200 stored

To this day, I do not know what happened to all the excess equipment that was purchased and never used, but I do know that money could have gone towards better things. Another large expense was my truck, at $5,800 per month in rent, I think WV bought it twice over. Not just my vehicle, but everyone’s. Rental companies were making a fortune in Haiti.

Staffing, normally the largest budget line item, was actually only 20% of my budget. I was able to push some of my line items to other business units. Remember, my first trip to Haiti with CARE, I learned that we could move security to landlords. This made things easier when I was asked to cut my budget down to $400,000 in October.

Next – WV Haiti Security Projects

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