March officials assist with Haiti earthquake relief efforts

  • Published
  • By Megan Just
  • 452nd Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
March Air Reserve Base became a hub for Southern California's Haiti earthquake relief effort when a team of approximately 75 U.S. Agency for International Development personnel reported to the base Jan. 13, for transportation to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The deploying personnel are members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, as well as several doctors from Los Angeles area hospitals. The team will be operating under the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance's U.S. Agency for International Development. The C-17 Globemaster III that is scheduled to transport the crew and their equipment to Haiti is from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

"This is what March Field is here for," said Brig. Gen. James L. Melin, the 452nd Air Mobility Wing commander. "We support every aspect of this country's global support, whether it be military, humanitarian relief or disaster response."

The responders are all certified in urban search and rescue, with specialists including paramedics, structural engineers and experts in communications and hazardous materials, said Matt Levesque, a Los Angeles County Fire Department information officer.

"They are trained to help people. For them, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to respond quickly and make an impact saving lives," Mr. Levesque said. "March's high degree of professionalism really makes the deployment go smoothly."

The USAID team arrived at March ARB in a chain of chartered busses and semi-trucks containing rescue equipment and supplies. After arriving, the group held a series of briefings, then prepared their equipment for transport.

Airmen from the 452nd Aerial Port Support Flight were placed on standby at 11 p.m., Jan. 12. The following day, along with Airmen from March ARB's 50th Aerial Port Squadron and Travis AFB's 615th Contingency Response Wing, they supervised the loading of the aircraft and passenger accountability.

"We know this is going to help people on the other end (Haiti)," said Tech. Sgt. Gus Corona, the NCOIC of ramp operations.

The APSF crew has seen several humanitarian relief missions leave from March ARB over the past several years, Sergeant Corona said. After watching the news about the earthquake in Haiti, Sergeant Corona and his fellow Airmen knew there was a good chance they would be called to assist.

The L.A. County Fire Department stores pre-packed disaster relief supplies in warehouses in transportable containers. As the March ARB Airmen analyzed the remaining space available on the C-17, the urban search and rescue personnel began removing excess material to leave behind in the U.S.

Laura Froehlich and a team of six volunteers opened March ARB's deployment hangar and served fresh baked goods, coffee, tea, cider, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and instant soup to the rescue personnel as they waited for their flight to leave.

The USAID personnel greatly appreciated the volunteers' hospitality, Mr. Levesque said. "The cookies will be the last cookies they'll see for the next couple of weeks."