SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
The 612th Air Base Squadron here and the 305th Air Mobility Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., worked together with the U.S. Agency for International Development to ship humanitarian aid here Oct. 21 and 25.
While missions from teh 32nd and 2nd Air Refueling Squadrons delivered a total of 21 pallets with 18 tons of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid, the 612th ABS helped download and store the goods, as well as ensured delivery to the intended recipient.
All of the cargo was donated by Helping Hand Ministries to Bridge Ministries in Comayagua. Helping Hands Ministries made use of the Denton Program, which provides the authority for the Department of Defense to use extra space on U.S. military cargo aircraft to transport humanitarian assistance materials donated by non-governmental organizations, international organizations and private voluntary organizations for humanitarian relief. For this particular mission, the nonprofit organization was able to make use of the space on two KC-10 Extenders out of Joint Base MDL, both of which conducted a flight, refueling and cargo transportation training mission.
"The Denton Program is really good for training because you get to see a vast array of cargo," said Airman 1st Class Joseph Sorenson, a boom operator with the 2nd ARS. "We got to see pallets with medical supplies, TVs, books, toys and even a motorcycle."
Once the aircraft arrived, the 612th ABS Air Terminal Operations Center began their role of getting the crew and aircraft checked into the country, as well as operating the equipment to offload the humanitarian goods. They also coordinated to have the goods placed in a secure storage area and the pick-up of the supplies by Bridge Ministries.
The ATOC crewmembers usually unload eight pallets each week full of supplies for Soto Cano, including helicopter equipment and household goods. It felt good to see something different, said Staff Sgt. Elliott Mason, a 612th ABS ATOC NCO.
"This time we got to see toys, crutches, and wheel chairs on the pallets," said Sergeant Mason. "It feels good to see all of that going to a good cause. I wish I could go out and help drop it off."
Besides all of the training benefits, Airman Sorenson said he also enjoyed being part of the Denton Program for a second time. His father-in-law has raised goods for Denton Program cargo runs in the past, and now the one-year Airman has seen the program from the other side, which, he said, has increased his awareness of those people in need.
"I have a baby girl coming in two months," Airman Sorenson said. "This could be going to someone who has a little girl, too."
Helping the U.S.'s neighbors in Central America is an important part of the mission, said Capt. Geoff Ashby, the 612th ABS assistant director of operations. Denton cargo creates a unique opportunity to strengthen the U.S. partnership with Honduras and build trust and confidence with all neighbors throughout the region.
"It's a privilege to be able to connect the critical training of our forces and the needs of the community around us while operating as the 'Gateway to Central America,'" said Captain Ashby. "Coordination between the 305th AMW, JTF-B and 612th ABS is the key our mission success. We guarantee that earnest efforts and generosity of our fellow Americans is rewarded by the appropriate delivery to those in need."
Click here for more information on the Denton Program