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Homeland Security

Total force proves beneficial to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita recovery

by Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
Air Force Print News

10/6/2005 - WASHINGTON -- More than 6,900 active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen supported Hurricanes Katrina and Rita relief operations, proving that the total-force concept works, said the Air Force chief of staff here recently.

“America’s Air Force answered the call for emergency assistance in this crisis,” said Gen. T. Michael Moseley. “Our total force -- active, Air Guard and Air Force Reserve -- using a mix of air support, transportable hospitals, logistics and vital statistics are superbly trained and well equipped to respond to calls for help.”

Working to meet local and state requirements forwarded to the Department of Defense through state governors and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Air Force deployed a large number of its aircraft -- from cargo airlift to search-and-rescue helicopters. The response to Hurricane Katrina alone was the largest peacetime air operation on U.S. soil.

In support of Katrina and Rita relief efforts, the Air Force delivered more than 17,300 tons of cargo, air evacuated about 2,600 patients, while more than 55,400 evacuee passengers were flown out of the devastated regions. Air Force medics treated more than 16,000 people, and more than 6,900 people were rescued, making Hurricane Katrina efforts the largest search-and-rescue operation since Vietnam.

The relief and recovery efforts allowed several individual units to execute at their best.

The 823rd Red Horse Squadron from Hurlbert Field, Fla., cleared 31,000 tons of industrial and housing debris during its Joint Task Force-Katrina deployment.

The Civil Air Patrol had about 176 members on the ground in Mississippi conducting door-to-door searches of homes to make sure survivors had adequate food and water. As of mid-September, more than 2,500 homes in four counties were visited.

Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., was selected as the hub for all international aid air shipments for Hurricane Katrina. The Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency at Tyndall AFB, Fla., managed about $35 million in contingency response service through the Air Force Contract Augmentation Program. The program allows the agency to provide contracted support during contingency and humanitarian operations.

The Air Force Reserve “Hurricane Hunters” flew into Hurricane Rita as the storm approached the coast to provide up-to-date information on weather conditions and forecasts. Fuels Airmen from Ellington Field, Texas, distributed more than 800 gallons of diesel fuel to evacuation buses there.

Having all the Air Force components work together showcased what the service is all about, said acting Secretary of the Air Force Pete Geren.

“Our goal was to save lives and help the people recover from this disaster,” he said.

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