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Conn. Airmen, getting the job done: Update from Haiti

Connecticut’s own Master Sgt. Melissa Letizio, noncommissioned officer in charge of billeting, 24th Air Expeditionary Group, helps other search and recovery personnel sort personal affects found at the Hotel Montana site in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of TSgt. Bambi Putinas)

Connecticut’s own Master Sgt. Melissa Letizio, noncommissioned officer in charge of billeting, 24th Air Expeditionary Group, helps other search and recovery personnel sort personal affects found at the Hotel Montana site in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of TSgt. Bambi Putinas)

A Search and recovery team takes a break from their responsibility of sifting through debris to find personal affects and human remains. Buildings crumbled to piles of rock and debris after the devastating 7.0 earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010, in Haiti, taking the lives of more than 200,000 people (Photo courtesy of TSgt. Bambi Putinas)

A Search and recovery team takes a break from their responsibility of sifting through debris to find personal affects and human remains. Buildings crumbled to piles of rock and debris after the devastating 7.0 earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010, in Haiti, taking the lives of more than 200,000 people (Photo courtesy of TSgt. Bambi Putinas)

One of the buildings is seen that crumbled to piles of rock and debris after the devastating 7.0 earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010, in Haiti, taking the lives of more than 200,000 people. (Photo courtesy of TSgt. Bambi Putinas)

One of the buildings is seen that crumbled to piles of rock and debris after the devastating 7.0 earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010, in Haiti, taking the lives of more than 200,000 people. (Photo courtesy of TSgt. Bambi Putinas)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- After one month serving in the devastated country of Haiti, Airmen from the 103rd Force Support Squadron's services flight are continuing to make history for the Connecticut Air National Guard. When not working in billeting and force beddown, the services team is side-by-side with the Army assisting in search and recovery and mortuary operations.

"This is the first time any of our services personnel have had the opportunity to work mortuary hands-on. And also, a joint operation," said Master Sgt. Melissa Letizio, non-commissioned officer in charge of force beddown and billeting with the 24th Air Expeditionary Group.

According to Lt. Col. John Connolly, the services command and control officer with Joint Task Force Haiti, Airmen from Connecticut, Kansas, and Tennessee board a bus in the early morning for sites where buildings have collapsed to assist mortuary services teams in the recovery of human remains and personal articles.

The Airmen have assisted in more than 40 recoveries and also aid in spotting, extraction and dignified transfer of human remains.

"Between working at the base mortuary and doing SAR at the Hotel Montana, it feels very surreal. I feel like I am in an episode of CSI. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and very rewarding. I am glad I can help," said Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas, billeting manager with the 24th Air Expeditionary Group.

Mortuary affairs is not the only way the Airmen are helping. Although more of background role, force beddown and billeting are just as important.

This operation is a 24-hour commitment that includes the accountability of more than 600 Air Force, Army, Navy, and Australian air force personnel, said Letizio.

"I am very proud of my team. They have done an amazing job. We work long, hard days. But at the end of the day, we know that we had a significant impact on the SAR mission and for that, we are proud," said Letizio.

(Information from an Air Force news story was used in this story)