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Denton Program, 437th APS support humanitarian missions

by Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi
628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/17/2011 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- There is currently 24,800 pounds of humanitarian aid stored at the 437th Aerial Port Squadron here waiting to be shipped to Colon, Honduras on Oct. 25.

Twenty reverse osmosis water purification systems and two anesthesia machines are being sent to provide clean water and medical supplies to more than 20,000 Hondurans who are in need.

There are currently 15 more humanitarian missions just like this one being managed by the Denton Humanitarian Assistance Program.

The program was designed to allow private U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods such as food, clothing, medical supplies, educational supplies, and agricultural equipment and vehicles to countries in need.

"The Denton Program was originated by Jeremiah Denton, who was a former Alabama state senator, presidential adviser to President Ronald Reagan on Latin American affairs, a retired Navy rear admiral and a prisoner of war during Vietnam," said Jim Bailey, the Denton Program logistics manager. "During the anti-communist movement of the 1980s, he spent a lot of time in South America and recognized the poverty there.

"He noticed that planes being sent to South America usually had extra space for more cargo which could be used for humanitarian support. He started the Denton Program in 1985 to fully utilize aircraft while helping those in poverty in South America."

The process of shipping humanitarian aid to a country in need is regulated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and the Defense Department.

"When a private organization, such as a nonprofit organization, wants to send humanitarian aid to a specific country, they must submit an application detailing what they are sending," Bailey said. "USAID and the Department of State validate the mission and inspect the shipment to ensure it is for a good cause and the supplies won't be put on the black market.

"After the mission has been cleared, the Denton Program sets up the logistics needed to find an aircraft which can take the cargo to its final destination. This includes finding the closest aerial port and an aircraft from active duty, (the) Reserve or Air National Guard with space available."

"Aerial porters play a major role in setting up humanitarian aid cargo by loading the materials onto pallets and transporting them on an aircraft," said Capt. Nick Lee, the 437th APS cargo operations flight commander. "Airmen from the 437th APS have palletized shipments of food, water and supplies to countries all over the world for humanitarian aid."

Airmen from the 437th APS has been palletizing the water purification systems and putting them in storage until a C-5 Galaxy from the 439th Airlift Wing from Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., will fly the equipment to Honduras. The 437th APS has 50 pallets and storage space available for the Denton Program and humanitarian relief efforts.

"This port doesn't just support the base," Lee said. "Aerial porters support missions worldwide, from bringing ammo and supplies to troops on the frontline to bringing clean water to those in poverty."

The Denton Program facilitates movement all over the world and shipped nearly 2 million pounds of humanitarian goods in 2010. The 437th APS has accommodated more than one million pounds of Denton cargo in the form of 260 pallets.

"Our port is a main hub for humanitarian relief efforts," Lee said. "We are honored to work with the Denton Program to provide a humanitarian need to those in poverty."

The water systems are being sent by Water Missions International, a nonprofit organization based out of Charleston, S.C., and were made by volunteers, Bailey said. Water Missions International uses the Denton Program three to four times a year to transport the water systems to different countries free of charge.

The Denton Program benefits the U.S. government, the donors sending the supplies and the people receiving them, Bailey said.

"The program supports U.S. government foreign policy objectives and helps those in need," he said. "It also ensures we are fully utilizing aircraft cargo capacity. Units who volunteer and work with the Denton Program provide their Airmen with many training opportunities. The pilots can stay current with their training requirements, and units with small aerial ports provide their Airmen with real world operations training. All participating units are recognized and their hard work is greatly appreciated. We are all humans and we all need clean water."

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