Although it is not one of the traditional roles people relate to the United States Air Force, the USAF has dedicated a vast amount of its resources and personnel to the Haiti earthquake relief. Within a single day of the tragic earthquake on 12 January 2010, Air Force personnel were on station in the shattered country, ready to provide medical, rescue, and logistical aid to the Haitian relief operation.
One of the first USAF units to arrive in Haiti was a team of Combat Controllers. These combat controllers are an elite special operations unit that is capable of deploying to battlefields, often behind enemy lines, and coordinating combat air support elements with ground forces. These servicemembers are utilizing their expert skills to coordinate the seemingly endless stream of relief shipments arriving at the Port-au-Prince Airport in Haiti.
Since the earthquake, the US Air Force has flown hundreds of sorties from the continental United States to the Haitian island, each carrying a full payload of relief supplies – food, water, and medical supplies. Support crews at both air force bases in the US and in Haiti have been working tirelessly around the clock in order to keep flights in the air – preparing the aircraft, loading their cargo, unloading the cargo, refueling and refitting the aircraft for the return flight, and repeating the process over and over.
Accompanying these relief flights are various other aiding Air Force personnel, such as construction crews able to clear out debris and begin the rebuilding process, search and rescue pilots and crews to search for and treat survivors, transportation units capable of delivering supplies anywhere on the island, surgeons and medical staff setting up aid stations, and even unmanned reconnaissance drone teams helping coordinate efforts from the air.
The United States Air Force is joining the massive coalition to support Haiti in this time of crisis. With hundreds of personnel deployed in Haiti and thouands more supporting the effort from their home bases across the states, the USAF is making a difference.