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Charleston officials keep supplies moving to Haiti

by Master Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan
628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/26/2010 - CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- Officials from the 437th Airlift Wing here established a C-17 Globemaster III stage here to manage aircrews supporting Operation Unified Response following the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti.

Charleston Air Force Base is now the air hub for C-17s providing relief supplies to Haiti.

"As support for Operation Unified Response became a large operation, it became beneficial to establish the stage to meet the large number of aircrews to run a smooth and efficient operation," said Lt. Col. Johnny Johnson, the 437th AW stage manager and 15th Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations.

Normally the base command post staff would track alert status, crew rest, maximum flying hours per week restrictions and other information, but with the addition of 30 additional aircrews to the flying operation, the stage was imperative to the mission, Colonel Johnson said. The stage wasn't established because the command post couldn't handle the extra work load, but is there to assist the command post with the additional work load as the two groups work hand in hand to get aircrews and aircraft off station and to Haiti.

The stage, made up of three lieutenant colonels and four duty officers working 12-hour shifts have facilitated 71 of the 98 sorties flown as of Jan. 21. On Jan. 21, 40 C-17 sorties were launched from the base carrying needed relief material and people to help the Haitian people.

"There is fantastic work being done by those pilots selected to be in the stage," Colonel Johnson said. "They are working outside the normal duties and have adapted to the environment they are working in because they know the results of their effort."

For those flying into Haiti the colonel said the aircrews are assigned missions on a first-in first-out basis as the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center officials at Scott AFB, Ill., task the wing members to support a mission. Most aircrews will normally be on alert for around six hours before being tasked after they have come off their 12-hour mandatory crew rest.

Some crews have flown four or five relief sorties, which is close to doubling their normal amount of flying time in a month, Colonel Johnson said.

The colonel was quick to point out the crews come not only from across Air Mobility Command, but also Pacific Air Forces. Crews and aircraft came from McChord AFB, Wash.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Travis AFB, Calif.; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; and the Mississippi Air National Guard.

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