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815th Airlift Squadron support Bahamas relief efforts following Hurricane Dorian

A C-130J Super Hercules from the 815th Airlift Squadron,  taxis toward its parking spot June 4, 2019 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Lt. Col. Keith Gibson, 403rd Operations Group deputy commander, flew the lead aircraft of a two ship flight during his final flight with the “Flying Jennies.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)

An 815th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules taxis toward its parking spot June 4, 2019, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The 815th AS is an Air Force Reserve Command tactical unit that transports supplies, equipment and personnel into a theater of operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)


The 815th Airlift Squadron returned Sept. 17 from a humanitarian mission supporting Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas for a week.

During the response to Hurricane Dorian, Department of Defense forces supported the U.S. Agency for International Development and the governor of the Bahamas with military unique capabilities.

“We were bringing down a Contingency Response Group and their main mission was to establish a mobile control tower to restore some air traffic control capabilities to the region as well as bring some water and sustenance,” said 1st Lt. Zach Underwood, 815th AS pilot. The 815th AS is a tactical airlift unit assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command’s 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

The crew loaded and flew the vehicles and personnel needed to move equipment and establish a tower, said Tech. Sgt. Gary Bryant, 815th AS loadmaster.

Under Foreign Disaster Relief Authority, U.S. Northern Command assessed critical transportation nodes to facilitate humanitarian assistance and maximize the flow of disaster relief into the area.

The 815th AS Airmen staged out of Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, and made two trips to the Bahamas for humanitarian support.

“We were getting the field set up and getting the group down there for a C-17 (Globemaster III) to come and actually bring the tower itself,” Underwood said. “What they needed was air traffic control capability because they have a mass volume of aircraft trying to get in and out of there from other civilian and government organizations to help bring in what it is they need, food and supplies, to start rebuilding that area.”

Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, hit the Bahamas where two of the major islands, Grand Bahama and Abaco, took severe damage.

“It’s great to be able to help out when there’s a natural disaster,” Underwood stated. “It’s always a rewarding mission to be on and it brought us an opportunity to play a role in that as a Reserve unit getting out there and being able to support the larger Air Force effort.”

Support to USAID and the Bahamas does not impact the DoD’s ability to provide assistance in the U.S. should DoD assets be requested, and the nation’s military, with its unique capabilities, remains fully postured to defend the homeland.


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