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Homeland Security

VR-57 Returns From Hurricane Relief Efforts

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050913-04
Release Date: 9/13/2005 8:42:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Megan T. Figuly, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Pacific

NAVAL BASE CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Air crews from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 57, returned here Sept. 6, after participating in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts for six days.

Pilots and crew members transported Seabees from the San Diego area to Biloxi, Miss., and helped in the evacuation of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

“Originally it was supposed to be a one-day mission,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class (AW/NAC) Stephen Furtak, crew chief. “In mid-flight from Biloxi, we received a request for help and went to the airport. We worked 19-hour days and felt doing the job came before being tired or any personal discomfort.”

More than 300 evacuees were transported on a C-40A aircraft to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“We had people who were tired, dirty, scared, and had never flown before traveling with us,” said Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (NAC) Melissa Alexander. “They had been through so much and were very grateful to us. I was overjoyed to be able to help these people get somewhere safe where they could eat a hot meal and rest.”

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Chinman, a VR-57 pilot, said he was honored by the chance to directly assist in hurricane relief efforts.

“This was rewarding. It was impossible not to feel compassion for their struggle,” said Chinman. “One of the best parts was watching the transformation from when people got on the plane, frightened and uncertain, to when they stepped off, smiling and cheering.”

According to Furtak, this mission is one he will never forget.

“It was the most gratifying mission I’ve ever done,” he said. “I think nothing will match the satisfaction of hearing thanks from those people, seeing them go to a better place and being a part of getting them there.”

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