by Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz
154th Wing Public Affairs
7/17/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- A
C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane and crew from the Hawaii Air National
Guard evacuated more than 125 Department of Defense members from Wake
Island, July 14, 2015.
The evacuation was executed as Typhoon Halola, which at the time was
packing sustained winds in excess of 100-mph had a forecasted track that
took it dangerously close to the isolated atoll located roughly 2300
miles west of the Hawaiian Islands.
Wake Island functions as a divert airfield or primary stopping point for
cross-Pacific military flights. At any one time, more than 100 DoD
personnel are on station to maintain and operate the airfield there.
It was planned to be a routine training day with roughly 3 hours of
flying time around the Hawaiian Islands for the all guard crew who
reported for duty that morning. Upon learning of the real world
assignment, the crew sprang into action.
"We train for the unexpected. When leadership tasked us with the
emergency evacuation of Wake Island, so many things go through your
mind. Are we ready for this mission? What dangers should we be aware
of?" said aircraft commander, Capt. Skip Saito with the 204th Airlift
"All questions aside, we were confident and ready to execute anything that was brought to us. That is what we train for."
The crew of 5 took off from Honolulu at 11am and roughly 4.5 hours later
landed on Wake Island. With engines still running, Wake Island
personnel and their personal effects were loaded onto the C-17. The C-17
was airborne just over 1 hour after landing, this time with a flight
plan taking it to Andersen, AFB in Guam, where the evacuees would remain
until the storm passed.
"As a Hawaii Air National Guard crew we are here for relief and
humanitarian support in the event natural disaster hits the state of
Hawaii. Expanding our support to the territories of the United States of
America shows that we are not limited in what we do" said, Saito.
An evacuation mission such as this highlights Pacific Air Force's
flexibility to generate air response quickly across the theater, a key
component to air power.
"This was an exceptional team effort utilizing guard, active, and
civilian members of our Air Force to safeguard life and property" said
Air Force Col. Gregory Woodrow, vice-commander of the 154th Wing, Hawaii
Air National Guard. "We are all extremely proud of the professionalism
and can do attitudes displayed by all."