By Sgt. Anthony Jones
145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MOORE, Okla. - The Oklahoma National Guard support of relief operations in Moore, Okla. following the devastating EF-5 tornado that struck the town is not limited to the soldiers and Airmen on the ground.
On May 23, a C-23 Sherpa flown by soldiers of Detachment 1, Company A, 641st Aviation, an Army aviation unit, airlifted more than 2,000 pounds of Meals Ready To Eat that will feed the more than 150 servic emembers in the Moore area while they continue to conduct operations supporting local agencies.
“It’s been agonizing waiting and hoping we get a call to help,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dustin McNeely said. “Obviously, everyone wants to help and it’s nice to be able to use my skills as a pilot to help everyone in need.”
“This makes me proud to be part of an organization that is so willing to do their best to help out, and flying helps by moving a lot of things and people around very quickly,” added McNeely a resident of Norman, Okla., a town located just minutes south of where the tornado ripped through Moore.
The soldiers flew around storms and rain from Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City to Muskogee, Okla. to pick up the supplies and continued on to Norman to drop off the meals to be delivered to service members across the disaster zone.
The aircraft used to move the MREs is a modified civilian airplane the Army uses for cargo and passenger lifts for short to medium distances. The airplane can operate in all weather conditions and can carry 3,500 pounds of cargo for 700 miles before needing to land to refuel.
“The mission itself is routine. However, this is a ‘real world’ mission this time and we are helping people out, that gives an adrenaline boost,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kelly Cawood, pilot in command of the aviation detachment.
Cawood, a resident of Goldsby, Okla., who has been flying for 30 years, said his unit has provided support for other natural disasters and has flown many operations in combat zones. He compared seeing the devastation in Moore to a war zone.
“It really hits home to see places I see do business with all the time destroyed.” Cawood said. “Sometimes you get choked up just thinking about the places you used to go that are not there anymore.”
The mission to bring food to service members may be the last for the Oklahoma National Guard’s two Sherpas. The Army is retiring its 43 Sherpa aircraft and Oklahoma is expecting to retire its aircraft in a few months, according to Cawood.
Cawood, nearing retirement of his own and preparing to fly what could be the aircraft’s last mission, said, “It’s one of those things you love when you have it and miss it when it’s gone.”