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Local FEMA team heads to Haiti to aid humanitarian mission

by Harry J. Lundy
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

1/19/2010 - NORFOLK, Va. (AFNS) -- Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency departed for Haiti Jan. 15, aboard two C-17 Globmaster IIIs to join the search for survivors from last week's destructive earthquake.

"Everyone is excited to get down there," said Michael Barakey, a search and rescue team member. "We want to help; we want to do what we are trained to do."

The FEMA's Virginia Task Force 2 Team comprises 80 firefighters and paramedics from the Hampton Roads area, who were activated shortly after the event.

"It took several hours to get everything together, but with coordination from the U.S. government and local firefighters, it really occurred quite quickly to get where we are right now," Mr. Barakey said.

The C-17s, from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and Travis Air Force Base, Calif., arrived early Jan. 15. Crews began loading vehicles and supplies that would be needed for the humanitarian mission.

Capt. Ryan Burns, a 21st Airlift Squadron aircraft commander, and his crew had already delivered one search and rescue team to Haiti, and Captain Burns said he looked forward to this mission as well.

"We want to help them (Haitians) because I want to help my neighbor. That is human nature," Captain Burns said.

Upon arrival in Haiti, one of the team's missions was to set up a secure base of operation and were assigned missions based on the most probable places to find survivors.

Cameras and microphones were used to look for people in difficult to reach areas. Breach and break equipment allows rescuers to get through the debris, and shores are used to hold back rubble while survivors are pulled out for medical evaluation.

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