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News | June 20, 2014

U. S. Airmen support Honduras humanitarian aid, Denton Program

By Capt. Steven Stubbs Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron played a critical role in the distribution of more than 29,000 pounds of donated humanitarian supplies and equipment to organizations throughout Honduras, June 13, 2014.

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 (USAID), the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and the Department of Defense.

The supplies, which arrived at the base via a U.S. Air Force KC-10 aircraft June 6, had been donated through three non-profit organizations with three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Honduras receiving the goods. Heaven's Reach Ministries, Family Life Missions, and the Helping Hands Ministry sent the donated supplies and equipment to Alcanzando Desde EL Cielo, Por Los Ninos, and Bridge Ministries respectively. The precious cargo, which consists of medical equipment, furniture, household items, school supplies, clothes, shoes, and educational material, will be distributed by the NGOs to various hospitals, clinics, orphaned children's homes, schools, elderly care facilities and churches throughout Honduras.

"We have various organizations in Honduras requesting wheel chairs, clothes, household goods or whatever need they have," said Sandi Burgess, founder of Bridge Ministries. "We then send these requests to Helping Hands which receives these supplies from various sources. They are constantly receiving calls from nursing homes that are closing their doors so they get all of their equipment. Hospitals are updating their equipment and then there are individual donors who give knowing that the organization provides for missions all over the world."

The medical supplies and equipment were offloaded and staged for pickup by the 612 ABS. U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew MacDonald, 612 ABS logistics officer, said it was a team effort by them to ensure the much-needed supplies are delivered.

"The 612th ABS provided a multitude of services to make this mission a success," said MacDonald. "In particular we furnish cargo download operations, airfield operations, as well as fuel and mechanical support to the aircraft. The 612 ABS Airmen are always motivated to support such a worthy cause."

The support and dedication of the 612 ABS in coordination with USAID has ensured the delivery of nearly 230,000 pounds of cargo and donations to local communities since the inception of the Denton program.

"This is a great partnership and we could not do it without Joint Task Force-Bravo," said Leonardo Paredes, deputy executive officer of USAID/Honduras. "We're working together as a team. They help us with everything here at the base from obtaining entry passes for the organizations, to unloading the cargo and many things in between. Because of the 612th's role and participation, this is why we have all of this cargo here ready to be distributed. This is so valuable for many Hondurans."

Burgess assured the role of the Denton Program and the 612 ABS was critical in ensuring the rapid distribution of the aid to those in need.

"This partnership has definitely been a blessing," said Burgess. "We used to bring the cargo in through Puerto Cortes and that was a nightmare. Our shipments would be held up for different reasons delaying its distribution, items would come up missing or we would be fined because the load contained a supposedly banned article. With the Denton Program and the 612th Air Base Squadron's contribution, we know the shipments are pre-approved and will arrive on time with everything intact and no hidden surprises."

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

"As service members we all took an oath to serve our country--to essentially be part of something bigger than just ourselves. Not only do we facilitate a mission that yields tangible results in the local community, but it also ties into the Air Force Core Value - Service Before Self. In this case it involved teaming up with various government agencies to help others in need. Us being able to safely and expertly receive humanitarian cargo and aid in its distribution to NGOs in Honduras falls in line with upholding that value."