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News | Feb. 20, 2014

Joint Task Force-Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron plays key role in delivery of humanitarian aid

By U.S. Air Force Capt. Zach Anderson Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron played a key role in the distribution of more than 19,000 pounds of donated medical supplies and equipment to hospitals throughout Honduras, Feb. 19.

The supplies, which originally arrived at the base via U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft Feb. 3, had been donated through the non-profit organization MEDWISH International to the Helping Hands for Honduras non-governmental organization (NGO) in Honduras. The supplies and equipment will be distributed by the NGO to three hospitals in Honduras: The Santa Rose Lima Medical Center, Nuevo Paraiso; Hospital Torax, Tegucigalpa; and Hospital San Lorenzo, San Lorenzo.

The supplies were sent to Honduras through the Denton Program, which allows private U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on U.S. military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods to approved countries in need. Approved countries include those that are supported by Department of Defense transportation services, and where civil systems, local infrastructure and the supply chain will support immediate onward distribution of the commodities. The program is jointly administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and the Department of Defense.

"These are usually used materials from U.S. hospitals," said Brian Smith, Chief Operating Officer for Helping Hands for Honduras. "While they may be used, they are still valuable for healthcare here. With the aid of the military, we are able to get this equipment here through the Denton Program, and get it here quickly and efficiently."

The medical supplies and equipment were offloaded and staged for pickup by the 612 ABS. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ray Matherne, 612 ABS Commander, said it was an honor for his unit to play such a pivotal role in ensuring much-needed medical supplies are delivered.

"Each and every day, the men and women of the 612th provide professional and seamless support to Joint Task Force-Bravo missions," said Matherne. "As enablers, each member of the 612th understands it takes the effort of the entire team to make each mission a success. I believe anytime we can be a part of an operation, no matter how big or small, to help those in need it is professionally rewarding."

According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Scott Denny, 612 ABS Director of Operations, the support and dedication of the 612 ABS in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has ensured the delivery of more than 200,000 pounds of cargo and donations to local communities since the inception of the Denton program.

"Our Airmen are highly dedicated professionals and always stand ready to support this very important program," said Denny. "These medical supplies are the lifeline to our local communities. The overwhelming feelings of accomplishment and pride are only solidified further when we see firsthand how successful the Denton Amendment program is for Honduras."

Smith said the work of the 612th was critical in ensuring the rapid distribution of the aid to those in need.

"They have done such a great job, moving all these items, they are staged just perfectly," said Smith. "We'll be able to start distributing them to hospitals this afternoon. The hospitals will be so appreciative, and that appreciation extends to the people here on this base, because they are the ones who made it happen."

Ron Roll, Executive Director of Helping Hands for Honduras, said he was touched by the hard work of the members of the 612 ABS in offloading the equipment.

"These military professionals worked hard, offloaded everything, and without them this mission doesn't happen," said Roll. "These military members don't know who we are, or who the Hondurans are that are going to benefit from this, but they do their job and they help us. You can see how they work and how they want to serve, and I am very thankful."

Matherne said participating in a humanitarian effort to help those in need is part of what being a U.S. servicemember is all about.

"This is a perfect example of living out the Air Force Core Value of Service before Self," said Matherne. "Through our efforts, we are able to support a whole of government approach to provide assistance to those in need. It is a pleasure to lead such a great squadron and I'm proud to be a part of the 612th heritage"