115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 115th Fighter Wing doesn't have an aerial port squadron or its own cargo aircraft - but that didn't stop some of Wisconsin's Airmen from helping to deliver more than 19 tons of humanitarian supplies to two foreign countries.
About 10 Wing Airmen, specializing in logistics and traffic management, assisted two Wisconsin volunteer organizations by palletizing and coordinating transport of educational and medical supplies aboard an Air Force C-130 Hercules destined for Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 21.
"Some people who are in need are going to get help," said Carol Dombroski. "My heart is just melting."
Carol and her husband, Bob Dombroski, are members of the Madison Rotary Club which collected more than 15,000 elementary-level text and reading books to benefit nearly 3,500 children in Afghanistan.
"It takes education to get people out of poverty," she said. "And this is a culmination of several months of getting the ball rolling - to see it come to fruition like this is just very inspiring."
Chuck and Peg MacCarthy, of Good News Project, are attempting to ease the burden of underequipped clinics and hospitals in the Commonwealth of Dominica by providing about 26 pallets worth of medical equipment, furniture and supplies to the country's healthcare providers.
Although there are many worthwhile organizations that collect supplies for countless charities across the globe, often times shipping costs are high for non-profit and private organizations. Many of these organizations look to the military for transport but there are very stringent rules regarding the utilization of government resources for transporting non-governmental goods.
This is the first time the Madison Rotary Club has attempted to ship supplies overseas. In the past, Good News Project humanitarian supplies found a ride aboard C-130s from the then Milwaukee-based 440th Airlift Wing. When the 440th relocated, the GNP was forced to use another economically-friendly organization but high transportation costs have made it difficult to keep a consistent shipment of their collected goods headed toward the people in need.
Fortunately for the Wisconsin volunteer organizations, a provision of Title 10 of the United States Code, under the Denton Humanitarian Assistance Program, allows humanitarian supplies to be shipped on a space-available basis at no or little charge. The MacCarthy's, who have been doing philanthropy work in the Caribbean Islands since the early 80s, began shipping goods to the islands, including St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada since before the Gulf War. This was made possible by the Denton program. They have since been inspired by the program's creator.
"We had the great honor of meeting Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton at a luncheon in his honor in Washington D.C. quite a while ago," Peg said.
They also had to chance to meet the pilots who would be transporting their latest shipment.
Capt. Aaron Webb, C-130 pilot for the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, made note of the distinct looking farmland as he was on approach to land. Carol was among the first to greet Webb and his crew after landing.
"We were flying at 4,000 feet. We're looking down and we see all these red barns and I said, 'We're in dairy country, aren't we?' ... so it's pretty funny that [Peg] gave us cheese curds," he joked.
All kidding aside, coupling military missions with philanthropic opportunities is worth the pit-stop, Webb said.
"Our training mission is important to stay sharp but when you get to do something like this ... it kind of makes the big picture come into view," he added.
The humanitarian assistance also provided training to 115th Airmen who worked late to accommodate the flight. Senior Master Sgt. Jason Walker, 115th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said he was happy to be a part of the Wing's unusual role that also provided an opportunity to two of the unit's newest Airmen.
"I think it's good training for building up cargo and it allows us to load real aircraft," Walker said. "And If we can help in that aspect, I think it's good to do and worth the extra effort"
Walker said that Master Sgt. William Kennedy, 115th LRS, was a key player in coordinating with the Denton Program to find a cargo aircraft for the supplies.
"I don't' believe we've had any humanitarian mission here ... at least in the last decade or so," Walker said. "It's a little extra coordination, but it really isn't that difficult to put some pallets on an aircraft. Our Airmen were more than willing to volunteer."
Carol and Bob, and Peg and Chuck all watched from the flight line as the C-130 took off with all of their hard work and good will.
Both couples said they were grateful for the 115th Fighter Wing's contribution to their cause. But perhaps Carol said it best as she walked off the flight line and read the welcome sign in front of base operations.
"'Dedicated to Excellence' ... that says it all," she proclaimed.