McChord aircrew deploys for hurricane response efforts
by Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
8/31/2008 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- Airmen here put the words "Any time, any place" into action in the early hours Aug. 30 as a C-17 Globemaster III headed to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., for Hurricane Gustav preparation efforts.
Without knowing what or who they were picking up, Airmen from the 10th Airlift Squadron headed to California in the first of three C-17 Globemaster IIIs. Although it was supposed to be the start of a four-day weekend, these aircrews were ready to answer their nation's call.
"As a premier combat airlift team, most of our missions are overseas," said Maj. Michael Maguire, a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 pilot and the mission commander. "To be called first to help here at home is a deep sense of pride.
"Our Airmen and our aircraft are the most versatile in the world," he said. "Holidays, weekdays or weekends our people are ready to respond to humanitarian and combat operations around the globe. In this case, we're able to be proactive in helping the people of New Orleans evacuate if necessary.
"We've learned from our past experiences and with the help of airlift assets, and we're enabling our leadership to preposition personnel and equipment at the right place at the right moment should the worst occur."
After the hour and forty-five minute flight to Travis, the aircrews were met by active-duty and Reserve Airmen from Travis AFB's 60th Aerial Port Squadron and the 87th APS from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. At Travis, the McChord crewmembers were tasked to take four members of the 615th Contingency Response Wing and 15,500 lbs of their equipment to New Orleans International Airport in New Orleans, La., right in the heart of the coastal areas that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Airmen in the 615th CRW open forward bases and extend existing Air Mobility Command infrastructure in austere environments via rapid forward deployment capabilities and presents a core capability to initial responding forces.
"It's great to see our Total Force Airmen working together to get this done," said Master Sgt. Shawn Showman, a 615th CRW aerial port flight chief. "I remember watching the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on television and remembering the pain of watching my fellow Americans suffer through that. The fact that the Air Force is part of our nation's response to ensure we never have a moment like that in our history again is incredible."
After the aerial port crews loaded the equipment aboard the C-17, it was off to New Orleans. After nearly five hours, aircrews were greeted by Airmen and officials from lead federal agencies preparing for Hurricane Gustav.
"It puts a smile on my face every time I see that bird land on the flightline here," said Col. Leon Contreras, Department of Defense senior liaison officer for Air Force support during Hurricane Gustav. "I put in the request for people and supplies Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and I started receiving what I needed in less than 24-hours. I love the C-17, because they can bring what you need anywhere you need it."
After an hour on the ground, the McChord aircrew headed home. On the five-hour flight back to Washington State some had the chance to reflect on what they had just accomplished.
"This is what we do," said Senior Airman Christine Condoleon, a C-17 loadmaster with the 10th AS. "I'm very tired, but satisfied. We were able to serve our customers with rapid mobility and prepare our fellow Americans in a time of need."
For one C-17 pilot, 1st Lt. Toni Horrell, this was her first mission in the Air Force.
"It's nice to see all the training we go through be put to use in such a worthwhile manner," said Lieutenant Horrell. "I entered this profession to serve my country and help those in need, and what better way to start my career than on a humanitarian mission in America."
With Hurricane Gustav's pending landfall, McChord Airmen and C-17s are ready now for quick deployment to the southern United States. McChord's airlift capability and Airmen blend seamlessly with lead federal agencies directing hurricane response efforts.
"We're extremely proud to help fellow Americans in need, and happy to serve however we can in this time of preparation," said Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. "These missions highlight the strategic importance of the C-17 and the unique capability of our Air Force. McChord Airmen stand ready to assist in the Hurricane Gustav response effort in any way possible, at anytime, in any place. That's our promise to our command and our nation and we will continue to keep it."
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