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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., Jan. 18, 2010 – The Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air and Space Operations Group here is paving the way for air operations in the emergency response to Haiti.
Florida Guardsmen have been working to assist the Haitian government, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. Southern Command in coordinating the flow of supplies into Haiti’s Port-au-Prince Airport since Jan. 15.
The Florida Air Operations Group used its unique capabilities to establish the Haitian Flight Operations Coordination Center while operating from its center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
The model for the coordination center was developed after Hurricane Katrina to smooth the flow of relief supplies into a disaster area.
"We are supporting the AFsouth Air Operations Center, the air component of U.S. Southern Command, 24/7 to provide this capability," said Air Force Col. Randall Spear, the AOG commander. "Supplies from around the world are now flowing into Haiti as a direct result of this effort."
"Previously, aircraft flowing into Haiti had a gridlock of several hours because there was no place to park or unload aircraft," Lt. Col. Brad Graff, director of the coordination center and chief of the 601st Air Mobility Division, said. "Now relief supplies - medical, water, and food - are steadily flowing into Haiti."
People from all over the world are talking with the Florida airmen to get a slot time on the ramp, Spear said, adding that Haitian authorities are only allowing landings from those with a slot time with the coordination center. The Haitian authorities dictate their priorities and needs to the coordination center through Southcom.
Florida Guardsmen also are assisting with the flow of air cargo into Homestead Air Reserve Base. They may pick up additional missions in other areas in order to maximize airlift to quake-ravaged Haiti.
"I am extremely proud of the professionalism of our Florida Guardsmen at the 101st AOG as well as the active duty airmen working beside them around-the-clock to ensure the protection of our homeland," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, Florida’s adjutant general. "They are able to take their daily, superb skills and rise to new heights to ensure an effective air response to a critical situation in Haiti."
Working in Florida, and particularly being Florida Guardsmen, the 101st AOG is experienced with natural disasters, enabling them to expedite the flow of critical resources into the area.
"We have become the experts in contingency response and planning when it comes to employing air support in disasters," Spear said.