Airmen airdrop relief supplies to Haitians
By SOF Editor on Tue, 02/02/2010 - 11:31am
Charleston Air Force Base Airmen airdropped approximately 14,000 bottles of water and 14,500 Meals, Ready to Eat Jan. 23 to the outlying area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The airdrop mission was flown as part of Operation Unified Response to save lives and bring relief to Haitians suffering after the Jan. 12 7.0 earthquake devastated the island nation. Lt. Col. Leon Strickland, the 437th Operations Group standardization and evaluation chief, began working the airdrop mission Jan. 17 and three hours later was on the road to Pope AFB, N.C., to become the leader of the mission planning cell, or MPC. His team -- Capt. James Long, a weapons officer from the 16th Airlift Squadron, and Capt. Ryan Spodar, a tactician, Tech. Sgt. Peter McCann, a loadmaster, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Polwort, a ground liaison, all assigned to the 437th Operations Support Squadron -- drove to Pope AFB to begin planning and coordinating the first air delivery of humanitarian supplies to the people of Haiti. Working with the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope AFB and the Army Soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., was nothing new for Charleston AFB Airmen, Colonel Strickland said. "This sequence of events was not foreign to us as we've accomplished this type of integration at Pope many times during joint forcible entry exercises," he said. "We had to ensure we had taken every precaution and meticulously planned the aerial delivery to ensure both the safety of the Haitian people as well as our aircraft and crew." Also included in the planning was an Air Force special tactics squadron staff who surveyed the ground in Haiti to find possible delivery zones. Fort Bragg Army riggers, assisted by Sergeant McCann and Sergeant Polwort, built more than 700 container delivery system bundles of MREs and water. After construction, the bundles were coordinated with the air delivery inspectors. Air Mobility Command air, space and information operations officials coordinated with Joint Task Force-Haiti officials and the Tanker Airlift Control Center staff. Finally, Captains Long and Spodar gathered and molded the information into the tactical plan. "The first air delivery was a proof of concept mission to see if air delivery of supplies in Haiti was a viable way to provide emergency food and water to the Haitian people," said Col. Robert Holba, the 437th Operations Group commander. "This method of delivering food and water allowed us to work around the logistical bottleneck at the International airport and put a huge number of MREs and bottles of water on the ground near where it was needed most," Colonel Strickland said. Colonel Strickland is part of the air component coordination element for Joint Task Force-Haiti. He said the ACCE works diligently to find pockets of displaced persons within Haiti using U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, which also assess damage across the JTF-H area. "The ACCE teams coordinate activities at the operational level to ensure commanders are getting the required air, space and information operations support and that the information is integrated at all levels of military planning and execution," Colonel Strickland said.