GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- Fifty-two Citizen Airmen from the 434th Air Refueling Wing deployed to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery.
Those deploying included electricians, carpenters, pavement specialists, pest management, water and waste water treatment technicians, firefighters and a force support team including personnelists and services members.
“The Hoosier Wing continues to step up when called upon,” said Col. Larry Shaw, 434th ARW commander. “Time and time again when called we answer in great fashion.”
This is the second deployment in two days of personnel and cargo to the South Florida base being used by multiple federal agencies as a staging area to support areas the hardest by the hurricane.
As a primary staging area the base is scheduled to receive additional relief aid daily, but was unable to receive that aid due to a shortage of support staff on the ground.
“Within minutes of landing, Homestead’s fire department was requesting Grissom firefighters so they could start landing large aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota, 434h ARW public affairs noncommissioned officer in charge. “We opened up a flood gate of support by providing the fire protection required.”
Firefighters from the 434th Air Refueling Wing unload their gear from a KC-135R Stratotanker at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. As soon as they were able to grab their gear the airfield could open to support heavy aircraft and further recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota)
In addition to Airmen, 17,000 pounds of cargo including meals ready to eat, cots, and water were also among tools and equipment taken to help speed recovery of the disaster torn area.
Two KC-135R Stratotankers loaded with personnel and gear departed Grissom late morning Tuesday and were scheduled to return to Grissom that same evening.
“Homestead currently has no power or utilities,” said Mota. “Any aircraft bringing in personnel and cargo had to depart before it got dark for safety reasons.”
Mota was among those making the trip, and provided escort to local news media invited to travel with unit members to witness and report on local recovery assistance efforts.
“It’s important that people know that many of these deployers are taking time off – and are given time off – from their civilian employers,” Shaw said. “I tell people time and time again, we can’t do what we do without the support of family and employers.”
No timeline is set for the return of those assisting with recovery efforts. Their stay depends on the progress and resiliency of Homestead and their infrastructure.
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in Air Force Reserve Command. Men and women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.