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Holloman Airmen prepare to help Haiti

by Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/20/2010 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- Units from across the base have been tasked to prepare personnel and assets to deploy in support of Operation United Response.

The 49th Materiel Maintenance Group, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron and 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron have been working around the clock since Jan. 13, preparing potable water and equipment to send to Haiti after that country suffered a magnitude 7 earthquake Jan. 12 which left thousands dead and many more injured and homeless.

"The 49th FW is honored to assist the people of Haiti during this difficult time," said Col. Kevin Robbins, 49th Fighter Wing vice commander. "Members of Team Holloman and assets from the 49th Fighter Wing will join Haitian and international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance. We are confident the assets we send will offer the people of Haiti much-needed relief."

The centerpiece of this package is the 1500 reverse osmosis water purification unit, or ROWPU. The unit can support a camp of 1,100 personnel by purifying 1,500 gallons of water per hour from anywhere there is a water source, and the water will come out as clean as bottled water from the grocery store.

Staff Sgt. Jay Wright, 49th Materiel Maintenance Squadron, said the unit takes the water through three steps of filtration that uses gravel, sand, cotton fiber and chlorine to make it safe to drink.

"It completely takes everything out," he said.

The base has four ROWPUs and enough housekeeping equipment to support a 1,500-person camp prepped and ready to ship out as soon as they get the call.

Because the ROWPU can sit for long periods of time until they deploy, Sergeant Wright and his crew have been working 12-plus hour days since they've been tasked, getting the equipment ready to deploy.

"We try to run them up a minimum of once a year and always before they deploy to anywhere, whether it be to Iraq, Afghanistan or in this case -- Haiti," Sergeant Wright said. "We run them for approximately 30 minutes to one hour a piece so that we can actually just run water through it ... to make sure the system itself is working the way it should."

Holloman is not just sending supplies to the small Caribbean country. It is also sending some of its most precious assets -- Airmen. Because the Airmen from Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources, or BEAR Base, not only prepare the equipment, they also maintain it, a handful of personnel will be deploying.

"The plan is to go in, set up a water farm and start delivering water to the people that need it," said Tech. Sgt. Emmanuel Lopez, 49th MMS. "All the equipment we're taking comes from here. We do the maintenance and we (support) it."

Members from the 49th CES will also deploy when called upon to augment the MMG personnel. They are prepared to help provide fresh water, utilities and to set up a camp complete with tents and living areas for the U.S. military relief teams.

"This deployment is proof of the team concept we have at Holloman," Colonel Robbins said. "Airmen from CE to BEAR Base and LRS are working around the clock to see that we do our part to help the people of Haiti and join the rest of the American military supporting Operation United Response. We are committed to this effort; our Airmen constantly train to deliver people and supplies anywhere, any time."

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