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621st CRW Airmen deploy in response to Hurricane Irma

Aerial porters from the 821st Contingency Response Group, load pallets of water onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Hurricane Irma relief efforts, at Marathon, Fla., Sep. 15, 2017. Due to the environment effects following the hurricane, there was a limited supply of potable water, food, and access to power. With support from the local authorities, team members delivered 10,933 cases of Meals Ready to Eat and 16,917 cases of water to the local population. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Masiclat/Released)

Aerial porters from the 821st Contingency Response Group load pallets of water onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Marathon, Fla., Sept. 15, 2017. Due to the environment effects following the hurricane, there was a limited supply of potable water, food and access to power. With support from the local authorities, team members delivered 10,933 cases of Meals Ready to Eat and 16,917 cases of water to the local population. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Masiclat)

A contingency response element deployed to Marathon, Fla., from Sep. 11-16. The team opened aerial port operations for Marathon, which allowed air passage for relief supplies. In total, the CRE-led joint team supported 250 fixed-wing and rotary-wing missions, and offloaded 261 passengers and 1,000,000 pounds of critical relief supplies, including critical sustainment equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Tawbush/Released)

A contingency response element deployed to Marathon, Fla., from Sept. 11-16, 2017, in support of Hurricane Irma relief efforts. The team opened aerial port operations allowing air passage for relief supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Tawbush)

MARATHON, Fla. (AFNS) -- The 821st Contingency Response Group from Travis Air Force Base, California, alerted a 64-person contingency response element to Marathon Regional Airport, located in the Florida Keys, where they arrived in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Sept. 11, 2017. 

Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, hit Florida as a Category 4 storm the morning of Sept. 10. 

According to Florida officials, the hurricane tore through the state ripping off roofs, flooding coastal cities and knocking out power for millions of people. 

In the aftermath of devastatingnatural disasters such as Hurricane Irma, the 621st Contingency Response Wing is poised and ready to provide swift and coordinated relief efforts, as directed, to save the lives and alleviate human suffering. 

The 621st CRW is a bi-coastal, agile unit, made up of approximately 1,500 Airmen, whose forces are primarily stationed at both Travis AFB and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. 

As requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through Northern Command Air Operations Center, the wing deployed more than 200 Airmen to multiple locations in the Caribbean and across Florida. 

The contingency response forces are part of a larger Department of Defense response to support authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. 

“We are a mission ready, mobile force that is deployable within 12 hours of notice and the Marathon mission was right in our wheelhouse,” said Lt. Col. Blaine Baker, 821st Contingency Response Squadron commander. 

The team departed Travis AFB within seven hours after their initial deployment notification, and landed in Marathon the night of Sept. 11, ready to perform 24-hour operations. 

Contingency response forces rapidly responded with critically needed capabilities to deliver assistance and aid in the relief efforts as directed. In many cases, the 621st CRW is one of the first units to arrive to disaster locations. 

When the team arrived to Florida, they immediately went to work partnering with U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps teams, and started working alongside FEMA, State of Florida officials and the local community. 

Due to the environment effects following the hurricane, there was a limited supply of potable water, food and access to power. With support from local authorities, team members delivered 10,933 cases of Meals Ready-to-Eat and 16,917 cases of water to the local population. 

“It was truly a multi-modal effort.” said Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Garbarini, 821st CRS chief enlisted manager. “We received relief supplies, processed them and then got them ready for the people in need. In the early stages, we were sending out water and food via helicopters. They flew in, picked up as many supplies as they could and then dropped them off at various points of delivery around the region.” 

As the roadways started becoming safe for driving, the team started sending supplies through the Army and their light medium tactical vehicles. 

The team opened aerial port operations for Marathon, which allowed air passage for relief supplies. In total, the CRE-led joint team supported 250 fixed-wing and rotary-wing missions, and offloaded 261 passengers and one million pounds of critical relief supplies, including critical sustainment equipment. 

“Directly helping fellow Americans in need in and around the Marathon area was the best part of this operation,” Garbarini added. “Seeing the outpouring of relief supplies coming from all over the United States was also impressive to witness.” 

Additionally, the team partnered CRE air traffic controllers with a Florida Army National Guard air traffic control team to provide air traffic deconfliction at the airfield. Their joint efforts enabled a safe operating environment through the positive deconfliction of over 1,000 aircraft transitioning the Marathon airspace. 

“We hone our skills in joint training exercises like Turbo Distribution and Mobility Guardian,” Garbarini added. “One of our [621st CRW] core competencies is humanitarian disaster relief. It also helps that we have a ready, agile force, postured on alert and ready to go in a moment’s notice.” 

“Operations at Marathon were highly successful,” Baker said. “It was a joint and interagency effort, and our Airmen accomplished their mission with distinction and instilled confidence in [contingency response] forces across the community and joint force.” 

The 821st CRG has since returned to Travis AFBand is once again postured to deploy if called upon to support relief efforts for Hurricane Maria.