by Senior Airman Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs
12/16/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Editor's
note: This is the first of a three-part series featuring the personal
experiences of 36th Contingency Response Group Airmen who supported
Operation Damayan -- a U.S. humanitarian aid and disaster relief effort
to support the Philippines in the wake of the devastating effects of
More than 80 Airmen from the 36th Contingency Response Group made their
way to the Philippines in support of Operation Damayan, a multi-national
effort to bring relief and aid to the island nation devastated by
Typhoon Haiyan, and after assisting Philippine forces in clearing and
managing Tacloban airfield and unloading water and relief goods intended
for survivors, the Airmen returned here with an experience they will
Master Sgt. Clinton Dykes, 36th CRG air traffic control NCO in charge,
viewed the devastation through the shattered windows of the 50-foot
control tower where he saw the devastating effects of the category
5-equivalent super typhoon.
"I had a view of the ocean-surrounded airport, and I was in disbelief
that a storm could produce such havoc, as I had never seen this type of
damage in person," Dykes recalled. "It was at that moment I experienced
sadness and a heart-wrenching feeling knowing there were thousands of
displaced families and many lives lost, yet thankful we were there to
help the Philippine military make a huge difference for this devastated
As the sole representative of the Air Force on the control tower, he
worked with three U.S. Marine Corps air traffic controllers around the
clock to control military aircraft traffic, splitting shifts in order to
get enough rest for demanding work conditions. He also worked alongside
Manila International air traffic controllers who volunteered to control
civilian aircraft traffic.
"It was a tremendous experience, and we all learned from one another,"
Dykes said. "We actually utilized one another's techniques to control
the chaos within the airspace and ramp.
"Before our arrival, there was a ground time of over 60 minutes which
truly hindered aid operations," he continued. "However, once we
implemented control priority procedures for arrivals, departures, and
ground traffic, ground time decreased to 30-40 minutes."
The air traffic controllers' contributions increased operations and
ensured timely arrival for the incoming aid and relief goods. The air
traffic control team supported helicopters, small civilian airframes,
aircraft carrying distinguished visitors, commercial and cargo aircraft,
as well as assets from the United States, Australia, Japan, Indonesia,
Italy and Sweden.
According to Dykes, the biggest challenge was adapting to the environment and moving from an exercise to a real-world mindset.
"This is what the CRG trains for, and we executed our duties extremely
well," he said. "Knowing that we contributed millions of pounds of aid
and seeing the people of Tacloban smiling and thanking us provided me
with great satisfaction. Once we had to leave, I knew we were leaving it
much better than we found it."
Because of the long-standing partnership and friendship between the two
nations, the U.S., working with the Philippine government, was able to
rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and supplies in
times of crisis. The U.S. military teamed with the Philippine government
to rapidly deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the
areas the Philippine government deemed most in need.
"This is the CRG's main mission focus, and we were absolutely ready to
deal with this disaster," Dykes said. "Our training had a great deal to
do with the success of this humanitarian aid and disaster relief mission
and our efforts contributed to the end state desired by the Philippine
"This is absolutely the highlight of my career," he continued. "If it
were not for me being in the CRG, this opportunity would never have been