Helping Haiti’s Children
By Capt. Justin Clark, 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 17, 2017
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A two-pronged mission over a weekend in December not only helped to keep 315th Airlift Wing aircrews current on all their certifications, but also delivered three badly-needed buses to schools in Haiti.
Reserve Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston’s 317th Airlift Squadron, with support from three additional Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 514th Air Mobility Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, transported the school buses in a C-17 aircraft from Charleston to Port-au-Prince, where they were offloaded at Toussaint Louverture International Airport, Dec. 16.
Upon arrival, the Reservist crew was greeted by Claude Joseph, president of Those Angels Foundation, an outreach organization that operates schools in the area, as well as a Haitian Congressman and over a dozen schoolchildren. The mission is another way to show support to U.S. partners in the region and support for Haitians still trying to recover from the widespread devastation of the 2010 earthquake.
“There are about 300 students in this program that will be affected by these school buses,” said Joseph, who, along with Sister Cities International, applied to the Denton program to have the buses transported via military air.
“Two and a half years ago, we got the buses from the Sacramento City Unified School District, and we’ve been struggling to get them to Haiti,” said Joseph. “Now, the United States Air Force and the Denton program said they would help us out, and we’re very appreciative.”
The buses were transported under the Denton program, which allows for military aircraft to transport humanitarian cargo when space is available, so it’s done at little or no additional cost to the taxpayer. Another three buses that were donated were delivered the following day by another aircraft, bringing the total number of buses to six. Having the buses helps to increase school attendance by minimizing the hurdle of transportation.
The event was also attended by Bertin Augustin, a Haitian Congressman who spoke through interpretation by Joseph.
“We would like to thank you for your support and bringing the buses,” said Augustin, upon seeing the buses being offloaded. “We hope that we can continue to work together to move forward.”
On the flying mission, the aircraft was commanded by Lt. Col. Derek Bishop, chief of safety for the 315th AW.
"In addition to serving the humanitarian side through the Denton program, this mission also really helped our crews maintain our flying currency,” said Bishop. “We had to navigate across multiple countries' airspace and work with foreign air traffic controllers, all of which helps us to stay up to date on all our requirements."
Maintaining currency means that the Reserve crewmembers are always qualified for any of the tasks their job entails. In addition to the pilots staying experienced, the loadmasters who manage the aircraft’s cargo during loading, flight, and offloading also gained from the experience.
"And, our loadmasters benefited from loading and unloading the buses to and from the plane, keeping them in practice,” said Bishop. “One of our loadmasters even earned his re-certification on the way."
The school buses were formerly used by the Sacramento, California school system, and were purchased by the humanitarian organization when they were surplused. They were then received by Those Angels Foundation in conjunction with Sister Cities International, which operates some schools in Port-au-Prince and nearby areas. The recipients complete a thorough application process to ensure that the buses will be used for their intended purpose, exclusive to children.
The 317th AS is a components within the 315th Airlift Wing, the Air Force Reserve unit located at Joint Base Charleston. The 315th and Joint Base Charleston have supported the Denton program since 1987, when it was established.