Humanitarian aid bound for Haiti, delivered by Kentucky Air Guard

Story and photos by Master Sgt. Philip Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

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Staff Sgt. Raymond Graves III, an air cargo specialist with the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, secures cargo netting on a pallet of humanitarian goods bound for Haiti on March 13, 2012. The Kentucky Air National Guard is helping Children’s Lifeline, a Kentucky-based non-profit organization, ship food and other supplies to Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck/Released)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When 45 members of the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to the Dominican Republic in 2010, they established a critical airlift hub that delivered more than 600 tons of food and medical supplies to Haitian citizens ravaged by a devastating earthquake.

Now, thanks to a humanitarian aid program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Airmen from the Kentucky unit are continuing to help their Haitian neighbors.

About 88,000 pounds of food and other supplies were shipped here recently for palatalizing and uploading to U.S. Air Force transports bound for the Caribbean island nation.

“Our piece of the mission is supporting the delivery of and subsequent airlift of cargo and supplies,” explained Chief Master Sgt. Ray Dawson, air terminal superintendent for the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We assist in coordination of aircraft, buildup of cargo onto pallets for air shipment, inspection of the cargo and loading of the cargo onto aircraft for shipment.”

That effort is part of The Denton Program, an ongoing commodity transportation project jointly administered by USAID, the State Department and the Department of Defense. It allows private U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on U.S. military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods at no charge, USAID officials said.

The supplies that the Kentucky Airmen prepared for shipment were provided by Children’s Lifeline, a non-profit organization based in Clay City, Ky. The group has been sponsoring humanitarian and educational efforts in Haiti since 1989, said Donald Curtis, president and CEO.

The agency feeds more than 8,300 children a day, and supports the education of 7,000 children, he said. It also teaches skills such as sewing, welding and earthquake-proof construction.

“We’ve been bringing in food, school supplies, love bundles and hygiene kits for refugees and children before there was even an earthquake,” Curtis noted. “We have a lot of kids that would have died if we hadn’t been there, and many kids that wouldn’t have an education if we weren’t there.”

Dawson said the Kentucky Air Guard has been involved with the Denton Program for several years and is pleased to continue the unit’s earlier work in Haiti.

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Aerial porters from the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron load humanitarian cargo bound for Haiti onto a KC-135 on the flight line of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on April 15, 2012. The cargo, provided by a Kentucky-based non-profit called Children’s Lifeline, included food and educational materials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

“Our Wing was on the front line, back at the base and in the deployed location, back in 2010,” he said. “We witnessed every day the needs and struggles of the people of Haiti. The Denton Program allows us to continue the mission we started in Haiti from our home base.

“The needs of the Haitian people and other countries affected by disasters remain for years after the initial relief efforts cease,” he added. “The men and women of the Kentucky Air National Guard remain committed to providing relief to those in need, any time, anywhere.”

Curtis is grateful for the help, noting that each container shipped by military airlift saves his agency $10,000.

“I honestly don’t know what we would do without it,” he said. “I’m thankful for the United States of America for offering this kind of program. I think it’s wonderful.”

To learn more about the Denton Program and donation possibilities, click here

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