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PACAF aircraft depart to assist Haiti relief effort

by Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball
PACAF Public Affairs

1/21/2010 - HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Pacific Air Forces deployed seven C-17 Globemaster III aircraft Jan. 19 to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., to support the U.S. military's Haitian relief effort, Operation Unified Response.

The aircraft and crews will rotate in to Haiti from Charleston AFB to provide airlift services as needed.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the island Jan. 12, inflicting widespread damage, death and injuries.

"The squadron got notification of the mission at approximately 8 a.m. local time Monday," said Lt. Col. Andrew Leshikar, 535th Airlift Squadron commander. "We had three crews put into required crew rest and the first aircraft departed Tuesday at 10:15 a.m."

Three of the aircraft belonged to the 535th and 204th Airlift Squadrons here and four deployed from the 517th and 249th Airlift Squadrons at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Team Hickam provided three augmented crews comprised of three pilots, two loadmasters and two flying crew chiefs per crew.

Aircrew personnel operating the PACAF aircraft are composed of active duty and Air National Guard members.

"All three Hickam aircraft belong to the 15th Airlift Wing, but were flown in conjunction with our total force partners at the 204th," Colonel Leshikar said.

The military response in Haiti is led by Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, the deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command. The Air Force is part of the joint, interagency team supporting an international effort to bring humanitarian assistance to the Haitian people.

"We train on a daily basis to support contingency operations including humanitarian relief and disaster relief missions," Colonel Leshikar said. "Seeing the devastation in Haiti makes us very aware of how lucky we are to have what we have. We look forward to being able to provide critical supplies to the people of Haiti in their time in need."

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