By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno, 621st Contingency Response Wing
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017 — A civil engineer air advisor for the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron here had been looking forward to visiting his hometown in Texas for a relaxing Labor Day weekend with family and friends, but instead his plans quickly
"Over 3,000 homes in a city only 14 square miles in size were destroyed and all you saw were thousands of people pilling debris and personal belongings by the curb to be hauled away forever," Air Force 1st Lt. Shane Lockridge, a native of Friendswood, Texas, said.
Driving Into Houston
As he drove into Houston, the lieutenant said, he prepared himself for the worst. "Even then, I couldn't believe what I was seeing," he added. "The city I spent my entire life in looked like a landfill."
Hurricane Harvey caused more than 50 inches of flooding in some parts of the state. Air Mobility Command directed allocation of its airlift, aeromedical evacuation and contingency response assets to federal relief efforts, as requested by U.S. Northern Command on Aug. 30.
"Once the hurricane reached my hometown, it just sat there for four days dumping 59 inches of rain -- all while I sat here in California for a week, heartbroken and anxious to get home," Lockridge said.
After hearing the devastating news, Lockridge quickly took action and began collecting donations from his unit. "We noticed there was a trend of shortages for baby supplies and hygiene kits," he said. "Word spread quickly to the spouses program in our unit, and the response was amazing."
The team was able to collect about 400 pounds of relief supplies. Multiple people donated cash, which was contributed to Houston Texans football star J.J. Watt's Hurricane Harvey relief fund, which raised more than $37 million. "My initial hope was to fill two deployment bags to take home with me during Labor Day weekend, but instead I ended up with five bags full of relief supplies," Lockridge said.
The relief supplies were organized, boxed and taken to a local distribution center to be given out to those directly affected.
The role of contingency response forces during disaster relief missions is to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities to deliver assistance and aid in the relief efforts as directed. In many cases, the 621st Contingency Response Wing is one of the first units to arrive to the disaster locations. Similarly, Lockridge was able to provide that quick response for donations with the help of his unit.
"I truly believe the humanitarian aspect of military operations is the most underrated aspect of this job. Seeing how quickly and efficiently the CRW is able to respond to these disasters is nothing short of miraculous," he said.
Lockridge was thankful his family and girlfriend were all spared from any severe damage, but many of his friends were not so lucky. During his time home, Lockridge and his family spent four days gutting a friend's house to the bare studs because the hurricane flooded over 7 feet of water into their home.
"It's hard to watch so many loved ones lose everything and know there is nothing you can do but pray," he said. "Being part of a unit with people who are willing to step up and support complete strangers without hesitation is heartwarming and inspiring. It really reaffirms that I am privileged to serve next to the most selfless and genuine people in this country."