By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anastasia Puscian, NMCSD Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - A Navy Environment Preventive Medicine Unit Five (NEPMU-5) Staff member never imagined his next visit to his birth nation would be in the midst of a national emergency.
Lt. Johnfritz Antoine, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, made his last visit home in 1992. Antoine is currently en route to Haiti in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster response. He deployed Jan. 14 with only 24 hours notice.
“I volunteered, I called my specialty leader the morning after and told him that this was my baby and they all agreed. I sent the email out Tuesday morning and at 10:30 a.m. the same day I was official tasked,” said Antoine. “I have been all over the world providing help in relief efforts to perfect strangers this is home for me, this is the place I was born, I have done it else where why not do it at home too.”
Antoine grew up in Haiti and moved to the United States when he was 12. His father worked for a company that was closing in Haiti but offered him a job in the U.S., so Antoine’s moved with his whole family to Brooklyn N.Y.
He attended school there from junior high until he graduated from the University of New York at Hunter in Manhattan.
“Growing up in Haiti was a happy place; there was a lot of family time. I have a big family; I have 11 uncles and 55-56 cousins. I remember summer camp the most. It was a lot of fun,” said Antoine.
In 2004, he joined the U.S. Navy after being inspired from working at ground zero. As an environmental health inspector, he started working at ground zero five days after the Twin Towers came down until 18 months later when he went back to his previous job as safety enforcement and recovery and clean operations with the health department.
“I didn’t know much about the military growing up in New York City,” said Antoine. “I met some of the Navy’s Environmental Health and Industrial Hygiene inspectors at ground zero, and since I was doing the same type of work, they thought it would be a perfect fit. They told me to check out the Navy’s Health and Industrial Hygiene program so I did. After I graduated, I joined.”
He also wanted a different career path and a chance to travel; the military gave him the opportunity to do so. His first duty station was Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), where he deployed aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and also to Iraq. NEPMU-5 is his second command in the Navy.
“I have traveled in support of the Tsunami relief in Southeast Asia, Cambodia, New Guinea, Vietnam and Indonesia. I have been to Iraq twice, and Kuwait,” said Antoine.
His humanitarian assistance experience along with his ability to speak both native languages (Haitian-Creole and French), will lend well to his assignment in Haiti, where he will work with NEPMU-2 forward deployed preventive medicine unit homeported in Norfolk, Va.
“My goal is to bring a Joint Task Force effort from a preventive medicine and medical stand point to help the people of Haiti move forward, whether it is from infection control to preventive medicine and environmental help with vector issues. For example, the flies and mosquitoes, with Haiti being a tropical island, are a big problem because of malaria and dengue fever. Those are the things were going to tackle to help alleviate the burden some of the Haitian people are suffering with right now,” said Antoine.
According to Antoine, his hope is to leave Haiti better than what it was before. Instead of helping the Haitian people then leaving, he hopes the U.S. will be able to teach the Haitian people to become a self-sustaining country.
“I am very honored and blessed that the military and the chain of command is allowing me to go to Haiti to help assist. I will do NMCSD and NEPMU-5 proud.”
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