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AF transports U.N. official to Germany after hostage ordeal

by 1st Lt. Justin Brockhoff
618th Tanker Airlift Control Center Public Affairs

4/6/2009 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- An American United Nations official held hostage for two months in Pakistan was transported from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, by an Air Mobility Command air-refueling jet and its crew April 5.

According to Associated Press reports, John Solecki, the local head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Quetta, Pakistan, was kidnapped at gunpoint Feb. 2, and then released by his captors this past weekend.

Shortly after his release, Mr. Solecki was onboard a KC-135 Stratotanker on his way to Germany for evaluation by medical personnel.

The KC-135 and its crew, assigned to the 459th Air Refueling Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., were already in the area when they got the call from the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center to fly the mission. The 618th TACC is AMC's hub for worldwide airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations.

"We received notification to transport Mr. Solecki from Afghanistan to Germany at approximately 3 p.m. central time on Sunday," said Capt. Marta Davies, a 618th TACC aeromedical evacuation flight manager.

As is typical for aeromedical evacuation requirements in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the 618th TACC planners worked closely with the Aeromedical Evacuation Control Team at the Combined Air Operations Center to get the mission airborne as soon as possible.

"In this case, we already had an aircraft and crew on the ground, ready to go, so it was only a matter of a few hours before Mr. Solecki was on his way," said Captain Davies.

The 618th TACC coordinates hundreds of airlift and air refueling missions each day, and can seamlessly redirect those missions to support emerging requirements for contingency, humanitarian or aeromedical evacuation operations.

In 2008, the 618th TACC coordinated humanitarian airlift relief along with U.S. Air Forces in Europe, as the Air Force delivered 587 tons in needed supplies, including food, cots, blankets, generators, and medical supplies, to people displaced by conflict in the Republic of Georgia.

The KC-135 is the Air Force's oldest air-to-air refueling jet, and can quickly be converted to an aeromedical evacuation configuration, capable of carrying up to nine stretchers or 13 ambulatory patients. It requires three aircrew members and carries an additional five medical aircrew members when flying an aeromedical evacuation mission.

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