Situation at Port-au-Prince airport improving
Airmen from Hurlburt Field hit the ground sprinting earlier last week, kicking off the U.S. Southern Command’s overall Haiti Humanitarian mission.
The Airmen have performed a wide range of missions to include medical support, airfield management, and weather observation in the devastated country, which suffered a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, and numerous aftershocks.
“We arrived the first evening with three U.S. aircraft. Within 28 minutes we established command and control, airfield management, and were able to land aircraft that night,” said Col. “Buck” Elton, Joint Special Operations Task Force commander. “On a typical day, the Port-au-Prince airport lands about three aircraft. Since we landed Wednesday, over 600 aircraft have landed and taken off.”
As of Friday, Haitian air controllers returned to duty, providing long range control while the combat controllers prioritized incoming aircraft, directed landings and take offs while balancing confined parking ramp space.
According to a factsheet released by Air Force South, the Haiti Flight Operations Coordination Center (HFOCC) has been created to oversee the efficient arrival, off-load and departure of military and civilian relief efforts to provide much-needed aid to the Haitian people.
All aircraft delivering aid will be allowed to land on a prioritized basis. Priorities and landing times are determined by the Government of Haiti in consultation with the United States government and the UN Mission in Haiti based on current needs.
“By using the slot system, we have been able to maximize the number of relief supplies the airport has been able to take in,” said Colonel Elton. “We have it so that when one aircraft departs, another takes its place.”
So far, over 600,000 humanitarian daily food rations have been distributed throughout Haiti, along with water and hygiene kits.
“We’re diligently working with the Haitian government to prioritize distribution sites,” said Mr. Tim Callahan, senior regional adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. “Hygiene kits are becoming more and more important, preventing further medical symptoms from occurring.”
On Saturday night, Air Force Special Operations Command pararescuemen along with Arlington Va. Search and Rescue pulled a 25-year-old Haitian female from the rubble at the university. It took them 28 hours to rescue her and was treated by the 1st Special Operations Medical Group surgeons.
Joint international work has been the underlining theme in the Haiti humanitarian mission.
“International search and rescue teams have rescued 61 people as of Sunday afternoon,” said Mr. Callahan. “Out of the 61 people rescued 29 we’re rescued by U.S. joint teams.”
“Seeing the teams on the ground digging people out and making rescues is very powerful,” said Mr. Callahan.
“I’m proud of all the quiet professionals who are deployed here,” said Colonel Elton.
Air mobility: connecting missions, hearts and lives for Haiti
At approximately 6 p.m. Jan. 14, a Charleston AFB C-17 and crew departed on the base’s first mission to bring the humanitarian relief to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which was struck Jan. 12 by a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
Charleston AFB began launching relief aircraft to augment the overall coalition effort currently underway to aid Haiti disaster victims.
The 437th and 315th Airlift Wings here are projected to provide additional airlift for relief personnel, equipment and supplies as directed by U.S. Transportation Command and requested by U.S. Southern Command.
One of three commands under USTRANSCOM, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command is fully prepared to provide any support necessary to aid Haiti relief efforts, AMC officials said.
Already underway are two additional humanitarian relief missions, which departed Charleston AFB early Jan. 15. Between the two most recent missions, as many as 80 Federal Emergency Management Agency search and rescue personnel are expected to be on board.
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Denis McDonough, one of many who have been transported via Charleston AFB C-17s, said the relief effort can only do good for the country, which is commonly accepted to be the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Compounding relief challenges even further, the airfield infrastructure required to provide rapid air delivery of supplies had been severely weakened following the earthquake, said 1st Lt. Ryan Fisher, 817th Contingency Response Group assistant director of operations.
The first mission from Charleston AFB was directed at improving the airfield conditions, by providing mobility support for deploying Airmen with the 817th CRG, based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, who possess the expertise needed to reinvigorate the crippled Port-au-Prince airfield. The C-17 mission departed Charleston AFB, rushing up the East Coast and landing at JB MDL at approximately 8 p.m. , where air transportation specialists with the 305th Aerial Port Squadron, affectionately known as “Port Dawgs,” immediately began loading the aircraft.
The load-out included a mobile command and control unit used for advanced communications with aircraft, ground vehicles and ground radios, as well as satellite communication equipment. The control unit was painted an illustrious desert tan, an obvious improvement designed for concealment in a Middle Eastern wartime environment, yet now was to be used for a much different purpose.
With the suffering Haitian people waiting for relief, there was a sense of purpose to be acknowledged, and the Port Dawgs with the 305th APS wasted no time, pushing, pulling and hauling the remaining cargo into the cavity of the C-17. The final “items” on the load plan ended up loading themselves … approximately 20 Airmen from the 817th CRG who would be deploying in support of Haiti relief efforts to aid their exhausted counterparts who were already on the ground in Haiti getting operations underway.
For many Airmen in the group, the expedition will be a first-time experience, said Staff Sgt. Jed Bigler, 816th Contingency Response Group communications technicians, who will be staying back to help mobilize the 817th CRG.
It had been some time since a world event called upon the unit’s unique abilities in such a vast way, he said. Nonetheless, he said he was ready.
“I saw the damage on the news and thought, ‘I better pack my bags,’” Sergeant Bigler said. “We expect the unexpected and train for that.”
As it turned out, it was not his group which will be deployed.
The 817th CRG is expected to deploy to Haiti for at least a month, and the group is prepared to stay until the mission is complete, said Lieutenant Fisher. The unit brings along food, water, tents for shelter, and all the necessities to accomplish their mission.
“The [contingency response group] is like an air base in a box,” Lieutenant Fisher said. “We bring sanity to chaos.”
Missions began flying out of JB MDL bound for Haiti in the early afternoon Jan. 14. The arrival of the Charleston AFB crew in New Jersey was assigned to transport the third wave of Airmen and equipment scheduled to leave the base for Port-au-Prince, according to JB MDL airfield management.
The hop to Haiti was no stone’s throw across the pond, but the time passed fast enough for passengers on board, with most taking a quick nap before arriving at Port-au-Prince. Within minutes of arrival, the sense of urgency was apparent as Port Dawgs once again arrived on the scene.
The aircraft ramp was a tight squeeze for the monstrous C-17, and mere feet separated parked aircraft from other aircraft taxiing past them.
As the Charleston C-17 sat on the airfield, other aircraft were landing and taking off in nearly pitch-black conditions. In a city that once glowed with illumination for millions, some of the last beacons left lit were only the few bright runway lights of the airfield, guiding relief aircraft one-by-one.
With all the cargo unloaded from the jet, Col. Patrick Hollrah, 817th CRG commander, said operations were sitting at 75 percent and improving, but challenges still remained because of the size of the airfield ramp and the number of people available to work.
By the time the Charleston crew departed Haiti and returned home, it was approximately 8 a.m. The crew, worn for wear from the long mission, expressed confidence in their contribution to the relief effort.
“The mission was definitely a success,” said Maj. John Cousins, the mission aircraft commander from the 317th Airlift Squadron.
“Things have already improved within the last 24 hours … Things are flowing better, but definitely with the people we delivered and their equipment, it’s just going to continue to improve, and the infrastructure of the base is gong to be able to handle more cargo,” he said.
“We’re the only air force in the world that has the ability to deliver that kind of cargo in that amount of time. It’s a huge impact to be able to take our C-17s and deliver this much needed [contingency response group] and the supplies that are going to follow the CRG.”
Table of contents for Haiti quake 2010
- Massive earthquake strikes Haiti
- Earthquake in Haiti – aftershocks continue
- Haiti earthquake aid
- Haiti quake damages pile up
- Horror in Haiti – the morning after the quake
- U.S. quickly responds to Haiti quake
- Infrastructure hurdles to Haiti quake relief
- U.S. Coast Guard on location in Haiti right now
- Strong aftershocks continue in Haiti
- PR Guard standing by – Gitmo damaged by Haiti quake
- Paras and Marines on alert for Haiti move
- Earthquake in Haiti update for January 13 evening
- Earthquake in Haiti – January 14 morning update
- Marines ready to assist Haiti after earthquake
- Earthquake in Haiti – Update for January 14 evening
- FEMA report on Haiti relief efforts for January 15
- Out of the night sky – Air Force secures Port-au-Prince airport
- Earthquake in Haiti – January 15 evening
- Haiti Quake Relief Funding Numbers
- But people are dying – thoughts on the Haitian disaster
- Aftershocks continue to rock Haiti
- Earthquake in Haiti – Update for January 16
- Haiti Quake Relief Funding Numbers for Jan 16
- Hospital ship Comfort sails for Haiti
- Baby delivered during Haiti evacuation
- Navy is delivering supplies to Haiti victims
- Hospital ship Comfort racing to Haiti
- Country club serves as forward base for Paras in Haiti
- Situation at Port-au-Prince airport improving
- Sanjay Gupta Assists Vinson Medical Team in Haiti
- USAID Update on the Haiti relief operation January 18
- Air drop to aid Haitian victims of earthquake
- Haiti Quake Relief Funding Numbers for Jan 18
- Earthquake in Haiti – morning update January 19
- Los Angeles rescuers save Haitian woman
- Stories from Haiti – update for Jan 20 morning
- American volunteers in Haiti
- American donations for Haiti earthquake relief – Jan 21
- Haiti earthquake relief update for Jan 21
- Haitians receiving care and support aboard Bataan
- Hospital ship Comfort healing, hugging Haitians
- Brief update on Navy and Marine relief efforts in Haiti Jan 23
- Fort Hood veterinary services unit sent to Haiti
- Harbor damage in Port-au-Prince
- American giving for Haiti relief as of January 25
- Comparison of Haiti donations to Katrina and the tsunami
- Haitian Coast Guard base becomes hub for quake relief
- Comparison of Haiti donations to Katrina and the tsunami Jan 28
- High tech warbird aids Haiti relief efforts
- High-speed ferrys en route to Haiti
- Southern Command briefs on Haiti situation
- Paras opening roads in Haiti
- Aid from Dominican Republic via Kentucky National Guard
- Haitian assistance stories for February 3
- Haitian relief efforts slow
- Marine calls Leogane Haiti home
- Haiti earthquake relief update for February 7
- Army medics at work in Haiti relief effort
- Haiti earthquake relief funding update for February 14
- Keeping Haitians informed
- A tent means a lot to Haitian orphans
- Italian troops aid paras in Haiti rubble clearance
- Landslide in Haiti tests Special Ops rescuers
- Navy and Marines bridge Haitian divide from government
- Haitian earthquake relief – update for February 28
- Haitian earthquake update – March 4
- Air Guard Engineers Help Haitians
- Things are baaaaad in Haiti
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