News: 193rd lends hand in Operation Unified Response
Story by Airman 1st Class Claire Behney
It's been more than a month since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated southern Haiti and more than a month since three aircraft and more than 50 Airmen of the 193rd deployed on a humanitarian mission in support of Operation Unified Response.
Two C-130s and one Commando Solo have deployed in support of this mission. Staged outside the devastation area, the aircraft have flown for a combined total of more than 430 flying hours since deploying Jan. 14.
"Our first flight in there [Haiti] was just a few days after it happened, so we were pretty much there at the forefront when everything first started," said Matthew, a C-130 pilot.
The C-130s are working missions to deliver relief supplies to the people of Haiti. The aircraft are loading supplies at their staged location and flying into the local air port of Haiti. Once the aircraft land, the supplies are unloaded and the aircraft and crew depart again to continue with the cycle. This cycle has lead to the delivery of more than 100 tons of cargo.
"We took supplies ranging from water, to Humvees, to extension cords, as well as some personnel," said Matthew, who was deployed for three weeks in support of Operation Unified Response. "Over the whole trip we probably hauled about 250 Americans back to the states."
Matthew said through interactions with the Americans the aircraft transported back to the United States he learned of their great appreciation for what the Wing was doing.
"They said that it was pretty backed up getting out of Haiti and that they waited in line for hours," said Matthew. "Some people were even turned away and told to come back at a later date, so they were thankful for the ride."
While the mission of the C-130s is to transport supplies and personnel, the mission of the Commando Solo is all about transmission.
The Commando Solo's mission is to fly over the devastation area broadcasting information regarding relief efforts to the people of Haiti through FM and AM frequencies.
"We're doing what's called a real-time relay," said Aaron, an airborne communications system operator. "Voice of America broadcasts out of the United States from multiple locations, primarily being the east coast and southeast coast of the U.S. and we receive it on the air plane and then rebroadcast it on the different frequencies."
Commando Solo is broadcasting the VOA messages on five different frequencies in French-Creole, the native language of Haiti, Aaron said.
The Haitian government advises what messages are broadcasted to their people. The messages are primarily in regards to health concerns and where to find water, as well as, non-interference messages, advising Haitians to not interfere with the help coming to them, said Aaron.
This mission marks the first time the Commando Solo has provided direct support of humanitarian aid.
"It's a great opportunity to get in and do what we can to help since it is a very versatile platform as far as what we are capable of doing," said Aaron. "It's also a great testament to the Unit that we are able to go down there and help the people out when they need it."
The Solo's milestone of involvement is having a significant impact in the Operation Unified Response mission.
"Radio is having a huge impact; it's the only way that they're getting information," Aaron said. "I think it's very important that we're up there doing what we're doing just to get some information to the people so they know what to do, what to expect and where to go to get what they need to survive."
The length of the deployment for the 193rd is still undetermined as the Airmen and aircraft diligently work to provide to the people of Haiti. Whether supplies are being provided or information is being broadcasted, the Wing is continuing its role in Operation Unified Response.