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Second air delivery success Jan. 21 paves way for increased relief effort in Haiti

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Airmen from Charleston Air Force Base conducted the second C-17 Globemaster III food and water air delivery mission Jan. 21, approximately 20 miles Northeast of Port au Prince, Haiti, in the town of Mirebalais as part of Operation Unified Response.

The mission brings the total relief aid air-delivered by U.S. Air Force aircraft to 33,000 meals-ready-to-eat and 23,000 quarts of water, and contributes to a combined delivery of 700,000 rations and 1.4 million bottles of water by the JTF-Haiti team from U.S. Southern Command.

Air deliveries of relief supplies are expected to continue over the coming days, as SOUTHCOM explores every opportunity to assist the people of Haiti in their time of need. So far, the U.S. Air Force has airlifted 3,589 short tons of relief supplies, and 3,874 passengers during 808 missions to the island. More than half of the passengers and cargo delivered originated from non-governmental agencies, signifying the continued commitment of Airmen to provide an efficient and effective means of delivery.

To aid in the airlift efforts at the overtaxed Port au Prince airport, military forces have opened a second airfield in Jacmel, about 30 miles southeast of Port au Prince. The airfield will receive C-130 deliveries that initially will support Canadian humanitarian assistance efforts centered in Jacmel. Also, the military is operating at airfields in two cities in the Dominican Republic, Barahona and San Isidro.

Lack of a fully functional sea port has made getting enough relief supplies into Haiti a challenge, but Air Force efforts are not going unnoticed. Deborah Demoss-Fonseca, government relations representative for Samaritan's Purse International Relief in Washington, recently tried to obtain a landing slot for 15 aid workers and medical staff at Port au Prince. The 612th Air Operations Center here, and the Haiti Flight Operations Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., have been working with Samaritan's Purse to expedite the flight based on priorities set by the government of Haiti.

"I've been dealing with dozens of (Airmen) since the earthquake, and without exception, every one of them, regardless of rank, has been friendly, efficient, professional and prompt to respond," Ms. Demoss-Fonseca said. "We are aware that the U.S. Air Force has managed an impossible situation, and made it very efficient. (Airmen) have our highest regard, and utmost appreciation."

While thousands of Airmen are supporting Operation Unified Response, more than 300 Airmen are currently on the ground in Haiti. Special Tactics Teams from the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., are still directing air traffic around Port au Prince and assisting with medical and search and recovery missions. The 621st Contingency Response Group from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurt, N.J., continues to expedite airfield operations to get planes unloaded as fast as possible to allow for more supplies to be delivered. A contingent of Airmen from AFSOUTH have established an air expeditionary group to coordinate command and control, and many others are working alongside other services and government agencies, partner nations, and non-government aid organizations like Samaritan's Purse.