Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

TOP STORY >> Military working to save victims

Combined, more than a thousand Little Rock Air Force Base airmen and Arkansas National Guardsmen are working to save lives, move supplies, light runways and restore order in New Orleans and other storm-ravaged parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Airmen continued supporting Hurricane Katrina relief operations from Friday by launching C-130 missions carrying supplies to the Gulf Coast. Those missions carried vital shipments consisting of approximately 13,000 bottles of water, 1,800 meals ready to eat and 2,500 packages of sanitary wiping napkins.
The Pentagon has been slow to respond to the state’s request to use 60 C-130 airplanes from Little Rock Air Force Base to airlift some of the evacuees to Fort Chaffee and other “colonies” that are planned around the state, Governor Mike Huckabee said Friday.

“We have been chomping at the bit to get involved,” said Capt. Delvin Genenbacher, a 463rd Airlift Group, 50th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander. “We are happy that we are going to help. We support this 100 percent.”

“This is a touching mission to be involved in ... I am just honored to do this,” said Tech Sgt. Patrick Carter, 463rd Operations Support Squadron loadmaster. “If we were in the same situation I am sure they would do the same thing for us.”

On the Guard side, numerous C-130 airlifts and a large convoy have transported troops, trucks, food and water in recent days. Designated Task Force Arkansas, it includes members of the 39th Infantry Brigade—some veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as many other outfits including the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base.

It is deploying with more than 80 vehicles including fuel and water trucks and many other trucks up to five-ton. Among the specialties of the Guardsmen are communications, medical, maintenance, transportation, law enforcement, engineering and logistics.
Wednesday, airmen from the 314th Airlift Wing, the 463rd Air Group and the 34th Combat Training Squadron flew to New Orlean’s Louis Armstrong International Airport to deliver portable runway lights to the hurricane ravaged airport.

“It was a race against the clock to get the airmen and airfield lights to the airport before dark so they could keep the runway open,” said Lt. Col. Glen Swift, 34th Combat Training Squadron commander. “The rest of us in the squadron worked together to look for anything they would need while they are there,” the colonel said.
Getting the airmen and lights into the airport was necessary for 24-hour operations. There was not enough power to use the existing lights on the runway. Those portable airfield lights were essential to saving lives according to crewmembers. The airfield is now one of the primary airfields used for aero-medical missions transporting patients out of New Orleans.

The airport is 4-feet above sea level and has three runways ranging from 3,500 feet to 10,080 feet long. “We are extremely proud of their efforts and proud of these guys,” Colonel Swift said. “They excelled in all they were asked to do.”

Four aero medical evacuation crews were to have departed Friday for San Antonio, Texas, aboard a C-130 Hercules from Little Rock Air Force Base, to provide in-flight medical care for victims of Hurricane Katrina, that has wrecked havoc along the coastlines of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
The Arkansas Army National Guard’s 35th Aviation Brigade deployed two UH-60 MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopters to
Mississippi Tuesday and performed search and rescue missions near Mobile, Ala., Wednesday rescuing a total of 57 civilians including six children and two infants. All rescues were from rooftops and flooded homes.
Some missions involved chopping through attic roofs.