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Spc. Darron Salzer, National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. - 01.15.2010An Ohio Air National Guard C-130 pilot, who flew into the Haiti airport the day after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, said he was surprised by the condition of the runway.
"When we went in, we expected there to be worse conditions at the airport, but by the time we got there, all communication, navigation and lighting systems were up and running," said Air Force Lt. Col. William Baulkmon, an aircraft commander from the 179th Airlift Wing, based in Mansfield, Ohio.
Late on Jan. 13, members of the wing flew two C-130 aircraft into Haiti with support personnel and equipment.
"We brought in basic cargo such as communication equipment and service members from the various services to accompany that equipment," said Baulkmon. "More than likely we will continue to provide this type of support."
About 45 members of the 179th have been deployed to Puerto Rico since Dec. 26 and were diverted to earthquake relief efforts. They joined forces with two C-130s from the 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico National Guard, based at Luis Muniz-Marin International Airport in San Juan.
"We were really surprised at how well the airport was set up as we came in," said Baulkmon. "We expected the facility itself to be more degraded, but as soon as we landed, they started to off-load us and we were back on our way to Puerto Rico in less than an hour."
The 179th air crews will be on alert, which means that they will be called upon at anytime in the next few days to fly more of these missions.
"We don't know what the future's going to hold, so we're going to be ready at a moment's notice," said Baulkmon. "We were honored to be one of the first crews to go into Haiti to provide the aid that the people desperately need.
"We've always been willing and able to volunteer and be on the tip of the spear, and this is just a testament to the preparedness and training of our crews."
In addition to the 179th, several other Air Guard units have been called up to support the relief effort.
The 167th Airlift Wing, based in Martinsburg, W.Va., began hosting a staging area for life-saving supplies bound for Haiti Jan. 14. The unit has also alerted two aeromedical evacuation crews for possible deployment to Haiti. These crews assess, treat and transport critically wounded patients.
The 167th wing members responsible for palletizing and loading the supplies on a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III aircraft had returned only hours earlier from a grueling week-long deployment to Gulfport, Miss.
The C-17s and crews are part of the 172nd Airlift Wing based at Thompson Field in Flowood, Miss.
"When tragedy strikes our Soldiers and Airmen always come to the front, regardless of the situation," said Army Maj. Gen. William L. Freeman, Jr., the adjutant general of Mississippi. "Our people and our assets will be standing by for any other recovery support that may be required.
The 193rd Special Operations Wing, based in Harrisburg, Pa., deployed three aircraft today, including an EC130J Commando Solo with 12 support personnel. The aircraft is a specially modified four-engine Hercules transport, which conducts information operations, psychological operations and civil affairs broadcasts in AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands, according to an Air Force Fact Sheet.
In 1994, Commando Solo was used to transmit messages to the citizens and leaders of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. President jean-Bertrand Aristide was featured in these broadcasts, which contributed to the orderly transition from military rule to democracy, according to the fact sheet.
Air Guard civil engineers from Kansas and New York are currently deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they are assessing personnel and equipment for providing disaster relief response from the U.S. naval base.
As part of their annual two-week training requirement, the engineers were originally scheduled to assist with several base construction projects. The earthquake changed all that.
"This is what we do and it is an honor to be called upon to support this," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard. "Our Guardsmen are prepared to do whatever is necessary to help the victims in Haiti."
Finally, officials from the Kentucky and Texas National Guard said they are standing by to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
"We have offered our airlift, search-and-rescue and emergency medical capabilities and resources, but we have not received any official tasking to provide aid at this time," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Mike Richie, deputy adjutant general for Kentucky. "Meanwhile, we will continue to assess our resources and prepare for the call to duty."
"The crisis in Haiti is a tragedy of epic proportions," said Army Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, the adjutant general of Texas. "It is the right and moral thing to provide whatever assistance is necessary to prevent further loss of life."