AF Ebola support winds down

  • Published
  • By Capt. Sybil Taunton
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
After more than four months of continuous airlift support to Operation United Assistance, the U.S. Air Force is winding down efforts in Senegal, Monrovia and Liberia.

To help counter the deadly Ebola virus, Airmen from U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, as well as Air Mobility Command and Total Force partners, provided a vital air bridge into Liberia.

"No military in the world can do what we did in Africa," said Gen. Frank Gorenc, the USAFE - AFAFRICA commander. "Our forward presence in Europe gives us the unique capability to act quickly when our partners in both Africa and Europe ask for help … I couldn't be more proud of our Airmen and what they do every day in this very challenging part of the world."

Aircraft from the 37th Airlift Squadron, of Ramstein Air Base and Total Force C-130 Hercules assigned to the 787th Air Expeditionary Squadron in Dakar, Senegal, flew 114 missions, transporting more than 1,000 passengers and nearly 1,750 tons of cargo including food, water and medical supplies.

Additionally, a total of 14 Air Mobility Command units from across the U.S. supported the operation using C-17 Globemaster III, C-130, KC-10 Extender and contracted aircraft. Together AMC's units moved nearly 5,500 passengers and roughly 8,700 tons of cargo.

Staff Sgt. Cassandra Hancock, of the 37th AS, explained what it was like to be part of the first C-130J crew to fly support down to Senegal and Monrovia for the operation.

"It gives me great pride to be a part of a squadron that does so much," Hancock said. "To have been a piece of the puzzle that helped get people, food and supplies to a country that was dealing with a pandemic of that magnitude is very rewarding."

As with all flying operations, no missions can take place without expert planning.

"It started when the aerial porters assigned to the 603rd (Air and Space Operations Center’s) air mobility division teamed with Air Mobility Command and began verifying cargo load plans to ensure the most critical cargo moved first," said Master Sgt. Brian Kaiser, from the 603rd AOC. "Also during this time our airlift planners, flight managers and the diplomatic clearances shop teamed together to identify and assess suitable airfields and aircraft routing. The team really pulled together."

Kaiser also described the unique challenges involved with the planning process for Operation United Assistance.

"Transiting through multiple countries for fuel and crew rest became a very difficult task with the uncertainty of the outbreak," Kaiser said. "Getting the diplomatic clearances for our crews and aircraft coming back from the initial response was a challenge. As with a lot of missions in Africa, airfield issues were very challenging too, but it's always gratifying to know that as a team we can use our expertise and quickly launch and control an effective airlift response to any crisis including this Ebola epidemic."

Civil engineer, medical and logistics personnel from the USAFE - AFAFRICA headquarters staff and the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing also provided ground support for the operation.