A US Air Force Special Tactics operator oversees a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System after unloading from a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, during the large-scale exercise Mobility Guardian 21 at Volk Field, Wisconsin, May 20, 2021. US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sandra Welch.
US Air Force Special Tactics airmen and the Coast Guard are on the ground providing assistance to Haitians following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, Aug. 14, and a tropical depression Monday that brought widespread flooding to Haiti.
The back-to-back natural disasters have destroyed homes, resources, and lives. Early estimates show more than 500 people dead and a further 9,000 injured so far, according to a UNICEF press release. The earthquake and tropical depression Grace are the latest in the country’s long history of natural disasters that have devastated Haitians.
Combat controllers and pararescuemen from the 24th Special Operations Wing arrived on the ground within approximately 24 hours of being notified of their new mission. Along with personnel from the US Coast Guard, they are bringing much-needed medical treatment, humanitarian supplies, and rescue capabilities to the Haitian people.
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) August 19, 2021
Chief Master Sgt. Chris Grove, 24th Special Operations Wing command chief, sent a statement to Coffee or Die Magazine about his experience in previous disaster relief operations and the key part Special Tactics airmen play in recovery and relief operations.
“When I served as a combat controller during similar humanitarian scenarios, I remember working long relentless hours in the heat with little sleep, controlling aircraft from dozens of countries and organizations with hand-held radios,” Grove said. “I saw how crucial opening airfields and providing air traffic control was to ensure hundreds of air assets were operating quickly and efficiently.”
Grove explained that these Special Tactics airmen are capable of air traffic control, establishing airfield and drop zones, coordinating supply drops, technical rescue, and other vital tasks.
“While we can’t compare those circumstances to exactly what we’re seeing today, we are constantly adapting and applying lessons learned from previous contingencies,” Grove said. “I have full confidence that our professional Airmen will always go above and beyond the call of duty, stay calm in the chaos and use their skills they’ve trained so hard in to help deliver aid to the people of Haiti.”
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) August 18, 2021
US Southern Command established Task Force Haiti on Sunday, according to a SOUTHCOM press release. Airmen from the 24th Special Operations Wing arrived the same day and quickly set up landing zones and cleared existing airport landing strips to facilitate humanitarian aid to the beleaguered country.
The Air Force established air traffic control and the Coast Guard started up search and rescue and recovery efforts. Since arriving, the USCG has rescued 83 people, transported 185 disaster and relief personnel to different locations in need of help, and flew at least 20 critically injured Haitians in a medevac helicopter, according to a USCG press release Thursday.
This isn’t the first time airmen from the 24th have helped with disaster relief. They have responded to several natural disasters in recent history, including hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras, Hurricane Michael in Florida, and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, the 24th SOW said in a press release.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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