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Airmen haul Operation Secure Tomorrow cargo


Release Date: 5/13/2004

by 1st Lt. Rob Goza Combined Joint Task Force-Haiti Public Affairs

5/13/2004 - PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFPN) -- The instant a C-141 Starlifter stops taxiing at its designated spot on the runway here, 84th Aerial Port Squadron reservists rapidly unload its cargo and immediately load material for the return flight. In a matter of minutes, without ever shutting down its engines, the cargo plane is airborne again.

The Airmen, who are based at Greenville, S.C., are responsible for the airlift missions that keep supplies flowing to U.S. and multinational forces here supporting Operation Secure Tomorrow. The operation provides security and stability to Haiti.

"As soon as the plane (lands) and the door comes open, we attack it, handle business safely, efficiently and get it out of here," said Senior Airman Alex Lowell Henson, who drives a forklift. "(There is) no shutting the engines down; we just slam it and go, and then we come back and wait for our next plane.

"I like that part of the job," he said. "You get to do the hauling. 'Moving the groceries' is what I like to call it."

The geographically separated unit was activated in January and assigned to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., for aerial port operations there. Then, the unit deployed here in April.

Although the reservists are all Airmen, it is a truly joint operation, said Master Sgt. Michael W. Powell, load crew supervisor and ramp coordinator.

"I work closely with the Army and the Marines," he said. "Anything that flies out of here or comes into here comes through us first. We handle all the Air Mobility Command aircraft."

Sergeant Powell, who deployed to Haiti in 1994 for Operation Uphold Democracy, said that the airlift operation part of the mission is almost identical.

The Haitian people are usually happy to see the U.S. forces, he said.

"As I was looking out the back of the Humvee, it's sort of like you're watching a movie, all the kids going by on the street," Airman Henson said. "But everyone would give you a thumbs-up or a peace sign, so everyone was real friendly."

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