AMC aircraft, personnel supporting Hurricane Ike evacuations

By Mark D. Diamond Headquarters AMC Public Affairs


SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Mobility Airmen and their aircraft are again in full support of hurricane evacuation operations as Hurricane Ike approaches the Gulf Coast.

This effort to support evacuation of patients and members of the general population comes on the heels of Air Mobility Command's support to Hurricane Gustav evacuation efforts. Command and control and coordination of the airlift effort is provided by the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center here while missions are flown by active duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and commercial partners.

According to AMC officials, days before the hurricane's projected landfall Air Force personnel, equipment and aircraft were prepositioned along the Gulf Coast in preparation for possible relocation of patients and members of the general population. More aircraft and aircrews were placed on alert.

618th TACC officials said AMC aircraft and personnel are now supporting the evacuation of hundreds of critical care and special needs patients from Corpus Christi, Texas. As early as Sept. 8, the 618th TACC was coordinating the movement of Contingency Response Teams and Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility teams to Texas to support possible AE missions.

Contingency Response Group elements from McGuire AFB, N.J. and Travis AFB, Calif. -- used to establish airfield operations and control the AMC airlift effort from the ground -- were positioned at several locations in Texas. Additionally, three MASF teams -- from the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill AFB, Fla.; the 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope AFB, N.C.; and the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott AFB -- were positioned in Texas. MASFs provide a staging area to receive, hold and prepare patients involved with aeromedical evacuation.

Active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen have been involved with hurricane relief efforts almost nonstop for the past two weeks, since the initial planning and missions in support of Hurricane Gustav began in late August.

"AMC has the capability to quickly deliver emergency response teams and massive amounts of relief supplies and equipment on a moment's notice," an Air Mobility Command spokesman said. "Air mobility is a truly unique resource for our nation, with capabilities daily ranging from combat missions to humanitarian assistance."

On a typical day, the 618th TACC coordinates an average of 900 airlift and air refueling missions, moving nearly 2,000 tons of cargo and more than 6,000 passengers globally. The 618th TACC can seamlessly redirect these missions to support emerging requirements for contingency or humanitarian relief operations.

When a Hurricane is identified as having potential to strike the United States, the 618th TACC begins to posture mobility forces for various relief scenarios. This posturing may include placing aircraft and crews in Bravo alert status, meaning crews are on standby and ready to launch in three hours or less from notification.

Air Mobility Command is no stranger to humanitarian operations in the United States and throughout the world. The command has a long history of preparing for and assisting civilian authorities following a natural disaster.

In fact, for Hurricane Gustav, the 618th TACC coordinated the movement of 8,074 evacuees, nearly 573 patients, and about 506 tons of equipment.

During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the 618th TACC tasked nearly 900 sorties to support relief efforts, and mobility forces moved more than 14,600 passengers, nearly 3,000 patients, and hauled the equivalent of 686 semi-truckloads of supplies to and from the Gulf Coast region.

After setting up the contingency response cell during Hurricane Katrina, TACC Airmen rapidly turned requirements into missions for humanitarian airlift assistance to people on the Gulf Coast. Within the first 24 hours of Katrina's landfall, the TACC aggressively moved search-and-rescue teams and their equipment to Louisiana, and then quickly shifted focus to a hub-and-spoke operation to bring in supplies and rescue patients.

The 618th TACC has also supported many humanitarian relief efforts around the globe. In fact, in August the Center supported the delivery of humanitarian assistance to individuals displaced by recent fighting in the Republic of Georgia. Air Force mobility Airmen delivered more than 587 tons of needed supplies, including Humanitarian Daily Rations, cots, blankets, generators, medical supplies, and more.

And during Pakistan earthquake relief operations in 2005, the 621st Contingency Response Wing, McGuire AFB, N.J., supported 273 U.S. missions, and provided 15,294,000 pounds of relief supplies, including more than 93,000 sleeping bags and 292,000 blankets. The wing also loaded 587 trucks and processed 4,481 pallets.