SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Approximately 200 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Southern Command and Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed this week with two CH-53E Super Stallion, three CH-47 Chinook, and two UH-60L and two HH-60L Black Hawk helicopters to provide heavy and medium lift to support the U.S. Agency for International Development-led mission to alleviate human suffering and bolster Haitian disaster response capabilities.
At the request of U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Transportation Command directed U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft here to be loaded with and move critical supplies and personnel to Haiti to support the ongoing Hurricane Matthew disaster relief efforts.
“What most people see in these operations are the nine helos taking off to Haiti, but what is often missed is the multiple mobility aircraft that follow picking up pallets full of equipment and sustainment that ensure the mission can continue in Haiti,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kimber Robinson, JTF-Bravo director of logistics. “The amount of effort that goes into identifying what needs to deploy, requesting airlift, preparing the cargo, and getting it on an aircraft is substantial and has required the involvement of all the units on base.”
The cargo aircraft were deployed to Soto Cano from Dover Air Force Base, Del., and Dyess AFB, Texas, within hours of being requested to transport additional personnel and equipment necessary to sustain flight and maintenance operations for the nine aircraft in Haiti.
"We knew we were needed, and we're honored to be able to take part in this effort," said U.S. Air Force Captain Jeremy Roberts, 3rd Airlift Squadron C-17 aircraft commander. Roberts went on to say that within hours of getting the call, he and his crew landed in Honduras and prepared to transport much needed cargo to help with the mission to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the hurricane in Haiti.
Extensive joint planning between SPMAGTF-SC AND JTF-Bravo logistics personnel was required to establish load plans and cargo prioritization so the equipment would be ready to load and transport without delay to prevent any mission stoppages or shortfalls.
“From the start of this mission, the Marine, Army, and Air Force logisticians have brought together their respective areas of expertise to push the cargo and passengers out to enable this humanitarian support in Haiti,” stated Robinson. “No one has focused solely on their service’s equipment and people, but are concerned about getting what is needed to support the joint element moving forward and ensure they have clean water, food, maintenance and life support. It’s truly a joint effort.”
While in Haiti, SPMAGTF-SC and Joint Task Force-Bravo’s 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment are part of Joint Task Force Matthew, a temporary command established by SOUTHCOM in Port-au-Prince, under the command of U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle, to coordinate and execute the combined Department of Defense supporting elements that include the Marine and Army aircraft from Soto Cano and ships and aircraft from the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The mission of JTF-Bravo includes being prepared to support disaster relief operations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, when directed by SOUTHCOM.
SPMAGTF-SC deployed to Central America in June to serve as a rapid response force during the hurricane season. It was headquartered out of Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras and was postured to rapidly deploy in support of a disaster relief mission in the region.
While the two elements from Soto Cano routinely conduct self-sustained operations throughout Central America without additional logistics support, an effort as extensive and urgent as this one required reliance upon the U.S. Air Force’s “Rapid Global Mobility” capability.