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Airmen shift from exercise to real-world relief efforts

  • Published
  • By Capt. Raymond Geoffroy
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from Yokota Air Base, Japan, shifted gears from exercise to real-world humanitarian relief operations as they arrived at Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, to provide tactical airlift support for Operation Damayan, Nov. 16.

The team of approximately 80 Airmen and three C-130 Hercules were returning to Japan from Exercise Cope South, a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise in Bangladesh, when new orders arrived to join the joint, multinational effort to assist the Philippine government's response to Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.

"This is exactly the kind off mission we train for," said Lt. Col. Jeff Menasco, 36th Airlift Squadron commander. "We can provide versatile humanitarian airlift operations in some of the most austere locations within hours of a mission tasking."

The team is joined by two more Yokota C-130s as well as additional aircrews and support personnel who will augment the airlift mission. In total, five C-130s and more than 90 Yokota personnel will join efforts at Clark, supported by Airmen operating back in Japan.

Yokota Airmen regularly train in local and regional exercises designed to developed and improve their airlift expertise to better respond to contingency situations.

According to the crews joining Operation Damayan, all the rehearsals have led up to this moment and they are eager to put their skills to use.

"We're ready go out there and do our job and help people in need," said 1st Lt. Jon Van Pinxteren, 36th Airlift Squadron navigator. "All the training we've received so far has been for this purpose. It's pretty exciting to say this is what I do."

The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping supplies in remote locations.

"In times of crisis, the C-130 have become an icon of hope to those in need," Menasco said. "No matter what the mission, we deliver in the toughest conditions. We are ready to do whatever we can to help the people of the Philippines as they recover from this disaster."