Kentucky ANG deploys troops for Hurricane Harvey rescue

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dale Greer
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Forty-three additional Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard departed for Texas Aug. 29, 2017 to assist with Hurricane Harvey rescue operations, including aeromedical evacuations.

An eight-person assessment team from the 123rd Contingency Response Group deployed aboard a Kentucky ANG C-130 Hercules at 1:15 p.m. Aug. 29, 2017, en route to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Once on the ground, they will assess the physical condition of the airport and evaluate its ability to support relief operations, according to Col. Bruce Bancroft, the unit’s commander.

A second group of 35 Airmen from the same unit, augmented by six Airmen from the Mississippi ANG, departed the evening of Aug. 29, 2017, aboard two C-17 Globemaster IIIs, also en route to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The Airmen on those flights deployed with all the equipment needed to rapidly establish airfield, aeromedical evacuation and cargo operations, including communications gear, power generators and all-terrain forklifts for the off-loading of humanitarian assistance arriving by airlift.

“We expect to be operational within a few hours of landing in Houston,” Bancroft said. “Our first task will be to facilitate the aeromedical evacuation of patients. To make that happen, we will be offloading one C-5 aircraft that’s bringing in the equipment and personnel for a DASF, or Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility.”

A DASF is a field medical unit, staffed by specially trained doctors and nurses, that provides for the care of patients who are being evacuated to hospitals or other care facilities.

“Follow-on missions are expected,” Bancroft said . “These could include the off-loading, staging and forward movement of a wide range of humanitarian cargo — everything from food and water to blankets and medical supplies.”

Bancroft noted that the 123rd CRG has extensive experience in responding to natural disasters. The unit was hand-picked in 2010 to establish and operate one of two overseas airlift hubs supporting earthquake-recovery efforts in Haiti, directing the delivery of hundreds of tons of relief supplies into the Dominican Republic for subsequent trucking to Haiti.

The 123rd CRG also deployed to Senegal in 2014 to establish and operate an Aerial Port of Debarkation/Intermediate Staging Base in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to fight the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The Airmen processed 193 aircraft and 1,200 short tons of cargo, including blood, plasma and tactical vehicles during the two-month deployment.

“We are 100 percent ready to execute this mission and get relief to the people of Texas,” Bancroft said. “Our prayers and thoughts are with the folks in Houston, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to put our skills into action. At a time like this, we’re all Texans.”

Meanwhile, another group of 18 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen who deployed to Texas on Aug. 27, 2017, are currently conducting airfield operations at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston and rescue missions in Pearland and Friendswood, Texas.

“We have 12 Airmen who went out in motorboats (Aug. 29, 2017), patrolling in Pearland and Friendswood looking for ‘opportune rescues’ — people who are trapped in their homes or on rooftops because of the flooding,” said Maj. Aaron Zamora, the director of operations for the Kentucky ANG’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. “Once the residents are safely in the boats, our Airmen are providing medical care if needed and transporting them to the nearest shelter.”

Like Kentucky ANG’s 123rd CRG, the special operators have extensive experience responding to natural disasters. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, members of the unit established and operated a helicopter landing zone on a highway overpass in New Orleans, helping evacuate nearly 12,000 residents.