Little Rock AFB Airmen, C-130's vital to saving lives
By 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan , 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 16, 2006
LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. (AETCNS) -- Two 50th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules crews from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., landed here Sept. 3 to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.
The Joint Task Force Katrina mission was to evacuate the patients to Ellington Airfield, near Houston, Texas, and Kelly Field at Lackland AFB, Texas, where hubs have been established to support the evacuation operations.
"Our C-130 has been transformed into a flying ambulance in the sky," said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Carter, 463rd Operations Support Squadron loadmaster.
The Little Rock C-130s moved more than 60 aeromedical evacuation patients on their missions. As of Sept. 4, the Air Force has moved more than 2,955 aeromedical evacuation patients, transferred more than 15,165 passengers and delivered 4,613 tons of cargo in support of JTF Katrina, according to Air Force officials.
Aeromedical evacuation has been vital in saving lives, medics on the ground said.
"If we don't move fast enough, people are going to die," said Chief Master Sgt. Rodney Christa, superintendent of the aeromedical evacuation unit here. "Every (aeromedical evacuation unit) in the Air Force is here to help. We are landing one (cargo airlift) plane here every 45 minutes."
The initial aeromedical unit arrived at the airport Aug. 31.
Patients lined the terminals on litters awaiting transportation, and Airmen assessed each patient before loading them onto the C-130s.
"The medical team is great. You can tell they really care," said Capt. Delvin Genenbacher, 50th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander. "These people are in an awful situation. We're here to get them out as quickly as possible. We'll do as many missions it takes, no matter how long it takes."
The Air Force units worked well together, according to 452nd AES members.
"These C-130 guys have been great to work with," said Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Williams, 452nd AES. "Everything moved smoothly."
Helicopters from all branches of the military landed every 10 to 15 seconds at the airport bringing in people rescued from New Orleans.
"This was a touching mission to be involved in -- I am just honored to do this," Tech. Sgt. Carter said. "If we were in the same situation, I'm sure they would do the same thing for us."
This mission was one of 18 Little Rock C-130 missions that provided hurricane relief and more are expected, according to base officials.