By Air Force Lt. Col. Dale Greer 123rd Airlift Wing
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 21, 2017 — Seven special tactics airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing left here yesterday for the Caribbean, where they will open airfields so humanitarian aid can be delivered and residents can be evacuated in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the third major hurricane to hit the region in the past month.
Kentucky Airmen prepare for Caribbean hurricane assistance
A four-member team from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and a three-member team from the same unit went to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Aaron May, the squadron's enlisted manager for combat control.
The mission of both teams is the same, May said: clear the airfields of debris, open runways and taxiways, and establish air traffic control so military airlift can begin. The teams were prepared to parachute into the fields with chainsaws if necessary so they can remove fallen trees and other obstacles, allowing the C-130 aircraft that brought them to land safely and begin offloading rescue gear, he added.
The airmen also deployed with trucks, motorcycles and inflatable motor boats to assist with rescue operations, May said.
The deployment marks the third time in the past month that Kentucky Air National Guardsmen have mobilized in support of hurricane rescue operations in the Caribbean, said Air Force Col. David Mounkes, 123rd Airlift Wing commander. "Our airmen stand ready at all times to answer the call for help, and we are tremendously grateful to be able to provide this assistance again," he added. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of these islands as they continue to weather an unprecedented hurricane season."
The Kentucky Air Guard deployed more than 80 airmen to Texas for Hurricane Harvey, establishing an aeromedical evacuation hub and saving 333 people stranded by flood waters in the Houston area. The unit later deployed 24 airmen for rescue operations following Hurricane Irma, helping to evacuate more than 1,000 U.S. citizens from the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Maarten.