HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- As Hurricane Irma set sights on the Caribbean Islands and headed straight toward U.S. mainland, thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate the area.
The 621st Contingency Response Wing, at the request of civil authorities, placed multiple alert teams on standby to support ongoing hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean and the U.S.
The 321st Contingency Response Squadron from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, was the first one to send a contingency response team to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, in support of Hurricane Irma relief efforts.
“Arriving at a location with no outside agencies to lean upon is the situation our team trains for,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Royer, 321st CRS contigency response team chief. “A lot of times we create dependencies to ease our workload or to channel authority. In this case, it became apparent the moment we hit the ground that the ramp was ours and we had no one to lean on but each other.”
They quickly opened port operations and offloaded 112.8 short tons of cargo and relief supplies, including two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, cargo and personnel from the 66th and 920th Rescue Squadrons, as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency members.
The CRT sustained 24-hour operations until follow-on forces arrived from the 439th Airlift Wing from Westover ARB, Massachusetts.
A 17-member CRT from the 821st Contingency Response Group located at Travis Air Force Base, California, also arrived to augment the 439th AW airfield capabilities in support of hurricane relief efforts.
“We are here to help support Hurricane Irma victims and Homestead ARB personnel by opening and operating the airfield,” said Master Sgt. Rodney Huffer, 921st CRS CRT chief. “This allows the people here and the base to re-establish a normal operating environment and concentrate on cleanup efforts.”
The team worked hand in hand with the 439th AW reserve partners to establish a complete team effort.
“Our capabilities are enhanced by working with our reserve counterparts,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric Bell, 921st CRS CRT chief. “It was a seamless integration between both teams.”
“It’s an amazing feeling of pride and accomplishment,” Royer added. “Being able to confidently tell the story that we transformed an empty piece of concrete, into a hive of activity that would ultimately result in lives being saved and the burden of suffering being reduced.”