JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) | Members of the 15th Airlift Squadron and 437th Airlift Wing, flew a C-17 Globemaster III to Fort Drum, New York, Sept. 28, 2017, to pick up aid supplies before flying to San Juan, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, battered the U.S. territory.
Joint Base Charleston aircrew members were placed on alert status mid-August in the event they were called upon to respond to hurricane relief efforts. Since then, the 437th AW has flown numerous humanitarian missions throughout this year's storm season.
“We have launched more than 70 missions supporting response and relief efforts after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria,” said Lt. Col. Erin Meinders, 437th Operations Group deputy commander. “Currently we are conducting relief operations into and out of multiple airfields in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as airports in the Florida Keys and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.”
The 15th AS, along with help from the Army, delivered 12 Soldiers, three Humvees, three trailers and four pallets filled with relief supplies for the citizens of Puerto Rico.
“We were activated Sept. 27 to help the citizens of Puerto Rico who suffered damages from Hurricane Maria,” said Army Sgt. James Munoz, 510th Human Resources sergeant. “We’re finishing the final stages to go support them. The officers in our division and brigade have worked hand-in-hand with the Air Force and received aircraft for the mission in less than 24 hours. We play a major role in each other’s missions, and without the Air Force we wouldn’t be able to get there.”
Working in a joint environment is nothing new to the Airmen of JB Charleston. With the uniqueness of each mission, something new can be taken away each time, such as seeing how members from other units and branches learn on the job.
“Even in the upload the Soldiers wanted to learn and work just as hard as we did,” said Airman 1st Class Patrick Schmidt, 15th AS loadmaster. “It was great working with them, they were eager to help.”
Although the missions went smoothly, it took a lot of time and effort planning for both services.
“It’s a long line of planning to go through. We get the call that the Army needs to move something and our schedulers do a great job of putting a team together and getting us out there,” said Schmidt. “We went up north to pick them up and they were ready to go. Our command did a great job getting everybody on the same page.”
Delivering humanitarian supplies is rewarding for all involved, no matter the branch, said Schmidt. Helping those in need after the devastation from Hurricane Maria helps make missions worthwhile.
“It’s a critical mission,” said Schmidt. “In this area, they’re all islands so they’re cut off from everything. With the C-17 we can get lots of cargo, food and water here quick and easy.”
Since relief efforts began, aircrews from JB Charleston delivered more than 2.5 million pounds of humanitarian supplies to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with recovery operations and Soldiers to aid in the distribution of relief items. Supplies included water, food, and equipment.
“This hurricane season has impacted numerous U.S. states and territories,” said Col. Patrick Winstead, 437th AW vice commander. “Throughout the time, the aircrews of the 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Airlift Wing have remained steadfast in providing support and relief to these areas. Through the power of rapid global mobility we were able to continue to provide relief supplies, medical teams and equipment to devastated areas.”