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Air Force Reserve crews, aircraft aid tsunami victims

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Air Force Reserve Command C-5 and C-17 aircrews and support people from around the United States are supporting the tsunami disaster relief efforts.

AFRC units participating in the humanitarian mission include the 315th Airlift Wing, Charleston AFB, S.C.; 433rd AW, Lackland AFB, Texas; 439th AW, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.; 446th AW, McChord AFB, Wash.; and 512th AW, Dover AFB, Del.

“The world is watching us. This mission is bigger than us,” Maj. Glenn T. Melia told his 439th AW aircrew during a briefing in which he reminded his people of their opportunity to perform a humanitarian service on an unprecedented scale.

Major Melia and his crew left Westover Jan. 9. They were scheduled to stop at Travis, AFB, Calif.; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Yokota AB, Japan; Osan Air Base, Korea; Andersen AFB, Guam; and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

Their mission included taking another Westover aircrew to Kadena AB, Japan. Maj. Changkun N. Moon and his crew were tasked to fly tsunami relief missions out of the staging operations from Kadena for up to two weeks. From Kadena, they are shuttling relief supplies and equipment to either Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka, or Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air Base near Sattahip, Thailand.

Two other Westover C-5 aircraft and crews flew missions to Yokota AB, Japan. The first crew, under aircraft commander Maj. Matthew O. Warren, departed Dec. 31. The 10-member crew flew numerous missions, including delivering helicopters to Singapore. After leaving Singapore, the crew headed to Andersen AFB, Guam, and then to Hickam AFB, Hawaii, where more relief cargo was picked up. It was then delivered to Utapao.

Air Mobility Command officials who oversee Air Force airlift operations said Reserve, active-duty and Air National Guard people flew 54 Operation Unified Assistance missions between Dec. 29 and Jan. 13. The aircrews airlifted nearly 1,300 passengers and 1,950 tons of material and equipment in support of the relief efforts.

In addition to aircrews, units are sending support people to work in staging points. For example, 20 reservists from Lackland’s 433rd Maintenance Group left San Antonio Jan. 9 to augment Kadena’s C-5 aircraft support teams. They will remain deployed 30-45 days to support tsunami relief efforts.

Aerial porters from Dover’s 512th AW are helping to move passengers and cargo at Kadena. Other Reserve aerial porters from Charleston’s 315th AW are slated to do the same things at Utapao.

Col. Wade Farris, 439th AW commander, said his Patriot Wing’s contribution to the relief effort is an integral part of the Air Force airlift operation half a world away in Southeast Asia.

“This effort represents Air Force reservists and Americans at their best,” the colonel said. “This is part of a long and proud tradition of supporting worldwide humanitarian missions from disaster relief to providing food to refugees. Americans can be proud that their Reserve force truly is prepared at a moment’s notice to respond to any crisis anywhere in the world.”