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Deployed 317th AG Airmen provide aid after disaster

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Peter Thompson
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group, currently deployed as the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, transported humanitarian aid to a remote part of Afghanistan on May 4, 2014.

Heavy rains in the Badakhshan region of Afghanistan lead to the collapse of a mountain side. An ensuing landslide destroyed the town of Aab Bareek, killing most of its inhabitants and burying the town in up to 50 meters of debris in some areas.

Shortly after, the Airmen from the 774th EAS were called upon to provide support in the form of air-land humanitarian support.

The 774th typically provides air-land, aeromedical evacuation and air-drop capabilities to U.S. Central Command. Their daily flights include hauling food, water, ammunition and other supplies to bases in theater. Aeromedical evacuation missions bring wounded coalition troops to better medical facilities for treatment. Immediately after hearing of the landslide, the 774th prepared to assist.

"Our ops were in constant contact with the Air Mobility Division, discussing potential courses of action," said Lt. Col. Joseph Miller, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander. "We placed additional aircrews into alert status in order to have maximum flexibility for response options once a decision to go was made."

As the only unit with large-scale air-logistics capabilities in theater, the 774th EAS immediately began researching possible airdrop and air-to-land locations. They found Fayzabad Airfield, Afghanistan, 10 nautical miles from the landslide site. The next day a forklift and 28,000 pounds of food, water, tents, blankets and other necessities were in the air with only three hours notice.

"This is a testament to our crews training and professionalism," said Lt. Col. Mitch Spiller, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron director of operations. "We're able to confidently send them into an unknown, mountainous, high threat, complex environment and know they will flawlessly execute the mission, because it's just what we do."

Days later, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai visited the site of the disaster. To prepare for the visit, the 774th EAS flew two aircraft containing his presidential guard and additional support personnel to Fayzabad. The next day they flew Karzai, his top advisors and his personal security team to the site of the landslide and back.

"We try to approach every mission the same," Spiller said. "Whether we are hauling a plane full of backlog cargo or the President of Afghanistan, we still approach the mission with the same level of professionalism and attention to detail."

Miller agreed with Spiller that professionalism and attention detail are what the 317th AG is all about.

"I'm very proud of this team of incredible Airmen," Miller said. "They always step up and flawlessly execute whatever mission is asked of them, without hesitation or reservation."