HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Guard dual mission: helping at home and abroad

Assigned to the 165th Airlift Wing, these Airmen demonstrate the Air National Guard’s dual mission of supporting state humanitarian missions at home and the federal missions abroad.

Master Sgt. Robbie Harrell (left) and Tech. Sgt. Michael Andrews, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmasters, prepare cargo for flight on a C-130 Hercules Oct. 10, 2017, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Airmen are from Savannah Air National Guard Base, Georgia and attached to the 158th Airlift Squadron which falls under the 165th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Not long ago, Airmen from the 158th Airlift Squadron, Savannah, Georgia, were delivering supplies with their fleet of C-130H Hercules to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But just a few weeks later, they find themselves on the other side of the world in Southwest Asia supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Assigned to the 165th Airlift Wing, these Airmen demonstrate the Air National Guard’s dual mission of supporting state humanitarian missions at home and the federal missions abroad.

“We pick up where the [previous] units left off,” explained Lt. Col. Sheldon Wilson, 737th EAS commander. “We continue the fight through air-land and air drop missions, distinguished visitor moves and medical evacuation flights.”

Savannah served as a staging ground for disaster relief efforts. As Hurricane Maria intensified earlier this year, the Savannah ANG base was tapped to serve as a place to store food and water, shelter members of the military and corral aircraft ahead of anticipated humanitarian missions.

Around 75 percent of the squadron members supported the hurricane aftermath efforts in some capacity before deploying to Southwest Asia.

“They want to be in the fight,” said Wilson. “We have volunteers for our aircrews and support personnel and do not have to force people to deploy. They know the mission well and are always looking for opportunities to excel. I want to make sure those people are recognized for the service they give.”

The operation tempo and mission here is 24/7 and the Airmen witness first-hand the difference compared to home station, where flexibility allows for more control of their schedule. Furthermore, the opportunity to utilize systems and execute processes they normally train on back home raises their experience level.

“The biggest challenge is saying goodbye to family and friends,” said Master Sgt. Robbie Harrell, 737th EAS loadmaster. “But the experience and proficiency levels we gain during a deployment are worth (their) weight in gold.”

This is Harrell’s third deployment and he explained that the highlight of his job is seeing the direct impact their mission efforts have on the faces awaiting their arrival.

For one particular member of the team, the state mission really hit home.

“Most of my immediate family lives in Puerto Rico,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Santiagobarrera, 737th EAS flight engineer. “I was worried about my folks down there and felt empowered to be in a position to help them.”

Santiagobarrera was born and raised in Puerto Rico and joined the U.S. Air Force in 2000. During one of his trips home through relief efforts, he was able to hand deliver supplies to his mother and sister and spent a few minutes catching up with them before continuing on his next mission. It had been two years since he had been home last.

“The biggest challenge is not being able to do more,” continued Santiagobarrera. “It was gratifying to see the impact we had there and I plan to visit home after this deployment.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
.@124FighterWing #pilot executes an austere landing at the Freedom Landing Strip, #NationalTrainingCenterhttps://t.co/HQ6xjGohcs
#USAF BMT is changing this #summer! #Airmen will spend more time on weapons familiarization, along w/ additions of… https://t.co/wlHwtx7XWO
#USAF #Airmen continues the process of making his childhood dream of playing professional football come true. https://t.co/iAl70c8GXS
The opening of Cargo City successfully transitions operations from the #USAF & Coalition Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Ba… https://t.co/K73PkhjpNY
RT @AirmanMagazine: It started as a dare between two pilots... The @usairforce Hurricane Hunters save lives by flying through hurricanes t…
RT @ActingSecAF: Thanks to this crew for making the right call and saving the life of a fellow service member. https://t.co/cP4KCIQFgD
The Space Test Program-2 will provide the #USAF with insight into the SpaceX booster recovery and refurbishing proc… https://t.co/qYhlj7Je9V
RT @ActingSecAF: Happy birthday @USArmy. 244 years of defending our nation. @SecArmy https://t.co/AfMoPxwbd8
RT @DeptofDefense: “They’re really noisy, but I love them.” This @USAirForce F-15 Eagle crew chief from the @142ndFW shares his motivation…
Today, America recognizes the birth of Old Glory with its own holiday. Flag Day was first celebrated in 1877 to mar… https://t.co/wqoEjdqQFy
#FollowFriday! @ActingSecAF Matthew Donovan is responsible for the affairs of the #USAF, including the organizing,… https://t.co/28IlKOKWMq
.@NellisAFB fixed wing aircrews are flight-testing new prototype helmets this summer, thanks in part to an accelera… https://t.co/4HSUGSk3Qg
The 2019 @warriorgames Opening Ceremony is set for 6/22 @AmalieArena w/@HunterHayes! Stay up to date with your… https://t.co/u34QuBnpdo
.@AETCommand's latest #podcast series dives into "Developing Mach-21 #Airmen," providing visibility on recruiting,… https://t.co/CGSHJonQAT
RT @ActingSecAF: Thanks to the support of Congress, the @usairforce is developing game changing technology. #fasterandsmarter https://t.co/…
#DYK, Flight equipment has historically been designed to fit males because there are statistically more male… https://t.co/iJnSp1pV74
.@AirForceReserve #Airmen rescues an 8yr old boy from flood waters, in Prague, Oklahoma. #USAFhttps://t.co/Y4efafIkO6
#DYK, Individuals w/ disabilities comprise a large part of the #USAF civilian force. As part of the American Disabi… https://t.co/LOP14Xhg4j