Dover AFB Airmen lifeline to hurricane survivors
By Tech. Sgt. Matthew Davis, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 03, 2017
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- Dover Air Force Base Airmen have a proud history of delivering help in dire situations all across the world. No matter the circumstance, these men and women can be on site in a short amount of time providing hope for those in need. The 3rd Airlift Squadron previously supported relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake and the squadron continues this tradition with the C-17 Globemaster III by transporting essential recovery supplies to the survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"One of the capabilities of this job is to be able to be there on scene quickly and to help out when something like this happens," said Capt. Steve Quinn, 3rd AS Reach 7170 aircraft commander. "No one wants a disaster like this to happen but it feels great from a professional and personal standpoint to be able to be someone who gets called up to come in and help. We're proud to be part of it and to be helping out and doing our part."
The squadron's Reach 7170 crew raced to the skies to make sure the equipment got to its final destination as quickly as possible.
According to Staff Sgt. Herbert Scott, 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief, performing at a full mission capable aspect is essential because the supplies, personnel and any other cargo need to arrive on location within a timely manner.
"If the aircraft was to fall short of its capabilities due to maintenance problems or issues, the cargo being delivered to relief victims would not be able to arrive on time, resulting in families not having fresh drinkable water, shelter or even food when needed the most," said Scott. "People's lives are on the line. If there is a problem with the aircraft in flight, you can't just pull over and pop the hood, that's why ensuring the jet is 100 percent ready to go every time and at all times before a mission is key to delivering people and cargo safely."
Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused catastrophic damage to the islands, Air Mobility Command aircraft have flown over 45 missions delivering aid to those affected. According to AMC headquarters, more than 1,100 short tons of cargo have been delivered to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 3rd AS Airmen were tasked on alert to bring vehicles, support assets and personnel from the 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado. The equipment will provide the tools that 68th CSSB Soldiers need to engage recovery efforts over the next few weeks.
"Most of the island is without power and drinkable water. It is important to get supplies and equipment to the people as quickly as possible to help start rebuilding," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Wright, 3rd AS loadmaster. "St. Thomas being an island complicates recovery efforts, and most of the supplies have to be flown in or arrive by boat. The sooner we can bring people, recovery assets and other essential supplies, the quicker the rebuilding can begin."
The humanitarian mission made stops at Fort Carson and MacDill AFB, Florida, before landing at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Once cargo and personnel were unloaded with the help of 133rd Airlift Wing aerial porters, Reach 7170 was airborne again, to Kelly Air Field, Texas, to get some much needed crew rest and then off to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The crew was again ready and willing to provide crucial aid the hurricane survivors so desperately needed.
Reach 7170 delivered 118,000 pounds of meals ready to eat and bottled water at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport to be distributed throughout a devastated Puerto Rico. With the help of Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group, the off load was a success.
The 436th Airlift Wing alone has moved 1.2 million pounds of cargo in support of hurricane relief efforts. Dover AFB Airmen have been on alert for 337 hours to be ready at a moment's notice. All Dover AFB mission disaster relief assignments are tasked by U.S. Transportation Command in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency for Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
"We provide the ability to be there within a few hours and just load up the plane with as much stuff as you can carry whether it's water, equipment or people to help support the relief effort," said Quinn. "We're just happy to be the guys that can enable that to happen and to be able to get the people and equipment where they need to be to help."