Airlifters team up for labor of love
Under the supervision of Chief Master Sgt. Harold Whited, far right, Basic Airmen Tyler Cancel, left, and Melissa Erickson guide a forklift while placing a pallet of humanitarian supplies bound for Honduras aboard a K-Loader. For the Airmen, fresh from tech school, it was their first time to use their skills in real-world operations. (Air Force photo by Gene H. Hughes)
by Capt. Wayne Capps and Gene Hughes
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs and 908th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
9/9/2011 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- While most Americans were enjoying a long, relaxing Labor Day weekend with friends and family, members of the Air Force Reserve Command, or AFRC, airlift community were teaming up to bring much-needed relief to orphans in the Central American nation of Honduras.
Reservists from the 315th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., and the 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell spent the weekend delivering the humanitarian cargo, made possible by the Denton Amendment.
Under the amendment, named for its sponsor, former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton, donated humanitarian aid is allowed to fly on U.S. Air Force assets on a space-available basis. Approximately 12,000 pounds of clothing and school supplies flew during this mission.
"It is rewarding to use our talents and skills for these humanitarian missions," said Maj. Robert McGrath, aircraft commander 701st Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston. "Flying airplanes for a living is rewarding and using our abilities to help orphans in Honduras is gratifying."
McGrath said these flights are a win-win situation for the Airmen, because not only do humanitarian supplies get delivered, but valuable training takes place as well. Both AFRC units used the time to good advantage.
The cargo, consisting of clothing and school supplies from Family Life Missions in Starkville, Miss., was delivered by truck to Maxwell, where it was unloaded and palletized by Airmen of the 908th's 25th Aerial Port Squadron, three fresh from tech school.
For Airmen Basic Heath Ezelle, Melissa Erickson and Tyler Cancel, just beginning training, the day was one of several firsts. According to Chief Master Sgt. Harold Whited, it was their first time marshaling a forklift and loading a K-loader. It was also the first time any of the three had ever seen the C-17 Globemaster III, a frequent visitor to Maxwell.
"This is the best training they get, hands on training with one-on-one instruction," Whited said. "We try to put them in situations where they must think and react on their own, instilling in them the confidence and ability to do the job. When you bestow ownership in the process, they will and do become better 'Port Dawgs' and have the ability to perform."
The young Airmen relished the opportunity.
"One-on-one training helps me get the knowledge from my senior NCOs on how to do the job," said Cancel. "The NCOs have knowledge and experience that they pass down to me and other Airmen to set us up for success in our career field. They let me know of past mistakes so I don't make the same ones."
"The instruction we received while on the flight line from various personnel was greatly appreciated," agreed Ezelle. "They give you all the information you need to accomplish the mission. They also made me understand the importance of safety, as well as the importance of communication."
Once the Globemaster arrived, the 315th and 908th team loaded the five pallets in short order. Before long, the C-17 was on its way to Honduras, where the supplies would eventually be delivered to a children's home in Catacamas, Por Los Niños, as well as surrounding villages.
The team is no stranger to humanitarian airlifts. In the past, the two wings have delivered several tons of cargo to several countries, including Nicaragua, Columbia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Panama.