Travis C-17 successfully delivers supplies to Haiti

January 14, 2010 10:30:27 PM PST
A C-17 from Travis Air Force Base has landed, unloaded, and left safely from earthquake ravaged Haiti. The plane left Vacaville on Wednesday with humanitarian supplies.

It stopped at March Air Force Base in Riverside to pick up a Los Angeles-based Urban Search and Rescue Team before heading to Port Au Prince.

"They're well-trained and they stand ready to do their mission," said Commander Ethan Griffin, from Travis' 21st Airlift Squadron. "When they got down there, they utilized all those skills and were able to move in and out of the airport safely, but it was a challenge."

The Travis C-17 is now in South Carolina, awaiting further orders.

In the meantime, Travis has several other C-17s and C-130's sitting on the tarmac awaiting orders.

The relief effort is complicated by conditions at the airport in Haiti, where congestion, confusion and lack of proper communications forced its closure for a time Thursday morning.

Tuesday's 7.0 quake knocked out the air traffic control tower, but a specialized unit from New Jersey's McGuire Air Force Base is on the ground there to help out.

"Our sister wing is already there," said Colonel Quintin Hartt, one of the commanders of the 615th Contingency Response wing based at Travis. That unit specializes in building infrastructure where there is none. "They will call forward more aerial port, maintenance, security forces if needed and the equipment to quickly download aircraft so those aircraft can get in and download off the ramp and you can get more aircraft and supplies in there."

Firefighter Niko King is hoping to get there himself. King and more than 70 members of California Task Force 7 and Urban Search and Rescue Team from Sacramento got their orders to head to Haiti Thursday night. Now, they are waiting for a flight out of Travis.

"It's a hurry up and wait game. We know that," said King. "You try to get there as fast as you can, but there's so many logistical issues and you're working with so many agencies, it's hard to get from point A to point B."

As of Thursday 6 p.m. Task Force 7 out of Sacramento was still at Travis waiting. Since they are hitching a ride with the military, they are at the military's mercy and when they order another plane from Travis, the Sacramento team will be on it.