Air Guard Scaling Back Haiti Relief Efforts

(Feb. Story by Master Sgt. Mike Smith
National Guard Bureau

Airmen of the 123rd Contingency Response Group offload humanitarian supplies from a Rhode Island Air National Guard C-130 Hercules transport aircraft at the Barahona airfield in the Dominican Republic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs; Released by Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht)

ARLINGTON, Va. (Feb. 19, 2010) – The number of Air National Guard members supporting Operation Unified Response dropped to a little over 200 this week as Haitian authorities and nongovernmental organizations begin to accept a greater share of relief efforts in the ravaged country, Guard officials said Feb. 18.

At the peak, about 500 Airmen from at least 15 states were involved in the earthquake-relief efforts.

“As we look at our military requirements in supporting (the U.S. Agency for International Development) and the government of Haiti, we’re dialing it back where unnecessary as we right-size the force as requirements are needed on the ground, and we’re dialing it up where it’s necessary based upon needs on the ground,” said Army Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, the top U.S. commander in Haiti, via video teleconference from Port-au-Prince Feb. 17.

Airlifters, air traffic control personnel and civil engineers from the Air Guard were the most requested specialties, Guard officials said.

Almost 20 Idaho Air Guard members from the 124th Civil Engineering Squadron were deployed to the devastated nation after the magnitude 7.0 quake hit Jan. 12.

“Our Citizen-Airmen supported fellow military members in Haiti by setting up tents and providing power, sanitation, water and refrigeration for food storage,” said Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, the Idaho Guard spokesman.

Airmen from New Mexico, Texas, Florida, New York, Arkansas and Washington State were involved in reconnaissance and intelligence missions; and Kentucky combat controllers and Airmen from Florida, New Hampshire, Mississippi and South Carolina supported air traffic control and airfield operations.

Airlift of personnel and supplies as well as logistics and communications were also conducted by units from Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Mississippi.

Airmen from the 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard flew more than two dozen sorties since the immediate response efforts started carrying supplies and personnel into the country and injured Haitians to medical facilities outside the country.

The communications missions included the use of the Texas Air Guard’s RC-26 manned Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft as well as intelligence Airmen, who analyzed collected data of the disaster areas.

The 123rd Intelligence Squadron from the Arkansas Air Guard deployed seven Airmen to provide imagery analysis assets to the joint task force.

West Virginia’s 167th Airlift Wing reported that 385,000 pounds of supplies were delivered to Haiti from a staging-area they established in Martinsburg, W.V. They loaded a C-17 Globemaster III from the Mississippi Air Guard with supplies as well as civilian Boeing 747, Boeing 767 and DC-8 aircraft.

The state’s other Air Guard unit, the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, W.V., still has one C-130 flying airlift support from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., to Haiti.

The 40 members of the 123rd Contingency Readiness Group of the Kentucky Air Guard is the largest entity still deployed in support of the operation. They established an airbase in the Dominican Republic to manage air traffic. Three C-130 Hercules transport aircraft from the unit continue to fly logistical support missions into Haiti as needed.

A Pennsylvania Guard “Commando Solo” C-130J with a crew of 14 continues to broadcast information through its radio and television systems to the Haitian people. The unit also airlifted humanitarian aid on the unit’s other C-130s from Homestead Air Force Reserve Base, Fla., to Haiti at the beginning of the relief effort.

The U.S. military continues to work under USAID, the lead American component, and alongside partners, such as the United Nations.

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