TOP STORY >> Foreign aid arrives at base
Leader staff writer
At least 15 aircraft from as many as eight foreign countries will discharge their hurricane-relief supplies at Little Rock Air Force Base by Thursday, where airmen will load them onto commercial freight liners headed into the heart of the storm ravaged South, according to Lt. Jon Quinlan, base spokesman.
“Little Rock Air Force Base has played a vital role in (hurricane relief) efforts,” Quinlan said. “We’re proud to be involved. This is a chance to alleviate suffering and save lives, and that’s extremely important to us.
“This is about the busiest time I can remember,” he added.
Among the countries sending aid through the base, which has been designated as the hub for the international relief effort, are France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Egypt, Italy, Israel and the West Indies.
That’s not the base’s only contribution.
“As of this morning, we have flown 25 C-130 mission sin relief,” Quinlan said Tuesday.
Those missions have been everything from transporting sick and injured from Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans to transporting cargo to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and to other locations. “It’s been a vital airlift in relief,” he said.
Among the various aircraft that have delivered about 185 tons of aid to the base are the 747, DC8, C-5, AN 124 Russian jets, some C-130s and a CASA 235.
Airmen from logistics readiness use forklift loaders to unload the planes.
The base expects another 250 tons by Thursday.
The aid includes water and meals ready to eat (MRE), Quinlan said.
The Times of London reported that 50,000 meals had been airlifted already from Britain to the base, with blankets, tarps, camp beds and military tents likely to be shipped later in the week.
The Times reported that British logistics experts would help coordinate distribution of aid from about 50 countries and in-ternational organizations from around the world.
Many of the international crews are being housed at the base until their trip home, Quinlan said.
“Little Rock Air Force Base stands ready to take on the hundreds of thousands of cargo tons coming in,” he said. “This is an excellent opportunity to put our training to work.”
An Office of U.S. Disaster Assistance is on the base serving as a liaison, and is responsible for contracting for the semi-tractor trailers taking the supplies south into the hurricane area, Quinlan said.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee directed the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base to active duty today to airlift evacuees from Louisiana to Fort Chaffee in northwest Arkansas.
“We’re preparing to fly evacuees around the clock,” said Col. Jim Crumpton, 189th Airlift Wing vice commander.
“We’re calling in our aircrew members, C-130 maintainers and a few others to launch, recover and fuel the fleet.
“We have seven aircraft — six of ours and the Louisiana bird — available and ready to fly today,” Crumpton said.
C-130 Hercules aircraft can carry up to 92 passengers per plane. As of Sept. 5, C-130 aircraft and airmen assigned to the 50th Airlift Squadron of the 463rd Airlift Wing had relocated more than 60 sick and injured hurricane victims from New Orleans to aeromedical evacuation hubs at Kelly Field, Texas, and Ellington Airfield, near Houston.
The base is also housing 173 airmen and dependents from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., which took a direct hit from the hurricane.
“We will do everything we can to get families situated here and to be comfortable,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Reheiser, commander of the 314th.
The base also has 36 personnel deployed as part of Joint Task Force Katrina, including two from public affairs.
Most are support personnel such as drivers and medics.
Quinlan said the cooperation between the three groups on base has been important, including the 314th Air Education Wing, the 463rd Airlift Wing and the 189th Air National Guard.