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Niagara delivers 18,270 bottles of H2O

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Peter Dean
  • 107th Airlift Wing
On Feb. 8 as 107th Airlift Wing aircrew were settling in for the night the call came in, and within minutes all crew members were on the shuttle bus headed for the flight line. The mission at hand, transport life sustaining water, 19,000 pounds in all, to earthquake ravished Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The mission would take the 107th AW from their staging area at MacDill, Air Force Base, Fla., to Homestead Air Reserve Station, Fla., to receive their load of cargo and then into Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Prior to leaving their staging area at MacDill, AFB the C-130 crew reconfigured the airframe from their previous mission Aerialmedical evacuation to cargo hauler. Working together loadmasters, crew chiefs and flight engineers removed litter supports, seats and installed cargo rollers. Within a couple hours the crew had converted the cargo area, checked gauges, mechanics and deemed the craft ready for flight.
Upon arrival at Homestead ARS, aerial port members on site transported and loaded the water already on pallets, bound and secured for the 3 hour flight onto Niagara's aircraft. Prior to take-off load masters Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Obrochta and Senior Airman Laura Kruse secured the pallets in place ensuring a safe controllable load.
"Everything needs to be secured for flight," said Obrochta. "If it's not bolted down, it gets strap it down," he added.
The 107th AW has supported Operation Unified Relief with aircrew and aircraft since just four days after the earthquake hit leaving the already underprivileged nation in shambles and chaos. Members of New York's Air National Guard's 107th Airlift wing have been working side-by-side with their counter parts, the Air Force Reserves, 914th Airlift Wing. The two wings co-located at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, Niagara Falls, N.Y. have been working together sharing , flying and maintaining the same airframe for more than a year and a half now. This association was in response to the BRAC decision of 2005.
Looking around at Port-au-Prince International Airport, it is easy to see the large scale of this humanitarian operation. Aircraft of all shapes and sizes, from many countries around the world can be found on the tarmac at any given time. Both military and civilian agencies from around the globe are working side-by-side for one common goal, helping Haiti recover. Just touching down and spending a short time on the ground, the overwhelming worldwide generosity is apparent, and bound to be a lasting memory for all whom have witnessed it firsthand. The members of the 107th AW have participated and/or witnessed many note worthy efforts. Just a few of the memories from this rotation are providing medical evacuation for Haitians that were in dire need of superior medical treatment that could only be had in more advanced countries. Rubbing elbows with a former commander in chief or most recently witnessing the transport to the U.S. of a dozen 3 to 5-year-old Haitian orphans.
"This is a very worthwhile cause," said Staff Sgt. Joe Hodkin, 107th C-130 crew chief. "I'm proud to be able to participate in this operation," he added.
Parked just a few spots away from the 107th Airlift Wing's C-130 at the Port-au-Prince international Airport was West Virginia's Air National Guard's 134th Airlift Wing "Charlie West" opening their wings to the latest group of Haitian orphans. It was unclear whether the children became orphans as a result of the quake or whether they were orphans prior to it. What was clear was the smiles upon their faces, the hope in their eyes and the joy in their hearts, for they were bound for a new life, they were coming to America. Or it could have been the sight of the cool planes! But no matter the reason their future now has a much brighter outlook, leaving the devastation behind and having the opportunities that are available to most Americans.
On a daily basis the generosity and aid continues to pour in from around the world. A long costly road lies ahead, it is the hope of all involved that this effort will bypass the corruption of the past and pave the way for long term growth and economical prosperity for the people and the nation of Haiti