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Homeland Security

McChord Airmen deliver equipment to American Samoa

by Staff Sgt. Eric Burks
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

10/2/2009 - PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AFNS) -- A C-17 Globemaster III from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., touched down at Pago Pago International Airport late Oct. 1, bringing nine Federal Emergency Management Agency members and 17,000 pounds of cargo to American Samoa in support of relief operations.

The mission was McChord's first humanitarian airlift to the Samoan Islands, which were devastated by a tsunami Sept. 29 that left more than 150 people dead and thousands homeless.

"When aid is needed, we're able to support anyone, anywhere," said aircraft commander Capt. John Cortney, from the 7th Airlift Squadron.

"We're here to serve our country in whatever capacity we're called upon to act," he said. "Whatever is needed, we're always on call and willing to help."

The aircraft's cargo was equipment necessary to restore vital responder communications and link search and rescue teams, said Rance Scarborough, a FEMA telecommunications specialist.

"McChord personnel have been a tremendous help in supporting FEMA and its (Bothell, Wash.) Mobile Emergency Response and Support Detachment," Mr. Scarborough said. "McChord quickly stepped up to meet FEMA's needs."

The equipment included a portable communications terminal, radios and repeaters, telephones and a switching station, a satellite terminal and 150 laptop computers.

The McChord aircrew consisted of Airmen from the 7th AS and 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and was one of several crews that had been placed on alert status Sept. 30.

The flight took off Oct. 1, and McChord Airmen remain postured to support additional missions.

Captain Cortney, with 250 missions under his belt in three and a half years at McChord, said it was his first experience flying a humanitarian airlift mission.

"There's a lot more people involved because of the short notice and turnaround," he said. "It takes a lot of work to support a mission like this, from Air Mobility Command and the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, all the way down to the squadrons and units at McChord.

It's a huge collaborative effort," said the captain. "There are people all over the country working hard to put this package together to provide relief."

"I take pride in delivering the 'beans and bullets' downrange, but it's really an honor to be part of a humanitarian mission," said Tech. Sgt. Derrick Russell, fronm the 7th AS.

Ultimately, Captain Cortney said, it's a reflection of their squadron's motto: "Always willing, always able."

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