Conn. Air Guardsmen Help Haiti Relief Efforts

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Approximately one dozen Airmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing deployed from here Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2010, to provide disaster relief assistance to the people of Haiti.

The deployers are part of Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE, part of the United States' larger response to the Haitian request for humanitarian assistance.

"This is it, this is what we train for," said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Jones, readiness trainer with the 103rd Force Support Squadron.

The deployers will be providing initial large-scale beddown for all military and civilian forces arriving in Haiti, said 1st Lt. Cheryl Mead, installation deployment officer, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"They may also be tasked to issue out food or sent on search and recovery missions," said Mead.

"From the phone call, to getting on the plane--less than 48 hours," said Tech. Sgt. Chris Jones, training manager for the 103rd Force Support Squadron and the assistant team leader for the deployers.

"I had to make a lot of things happen very quickly," said Chris Jones, referring to notifying family members, civilian employers and arranging finances.

Among others who sacrificed, Master Sgt. Melissa A. Letizio, noncommissioned officer in charge for the base dining hall and team leader for her deployed group, had to withdraw from college. She also said she may miss her sister's wedding, but it would be worth the sacrifice.

"Don't let my sister read that," said Letizio while smiling.

Letizio, who has been on two other deployments also said, "I think this is probably going to be the most rewarding deployment I've been on."

As for the actual process of deploying, Letizio said it was more surreal than anything; it happened so quickly.

Within 24 hours, the deployers were able to put their civilian lives on hold, conduct necessary training, and received vital mission essential equipment like dust masks, cots, and tents that were purchased from a local department store.

That's right, camping tents.

"I'm looking at it like a camping trip," said Chris Jones, "I love camping." You always have to turn it into a positive thing, he said.

The deployers left Bradley via C-21 aircraft to meet up with others in South Carolina where they are currently await airlift into Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

In the meantime, they will be palletizing and loading C-17 aircrafts for Haiti with meals-ready-to-eat and water, said Letizio.

It felt great just to be part of the humanitarian effort, it's what the Guard does; it's what we're all about, said Lt. Col. McManaman, commander for the 118th Airlift Squadron and one of the pilots who flew the deployers to their first stop.

"We are ready, willing and able to support the Air National Guard Mission," said McManaman.

"I was happy to contribute in the smallest way to the relief effort in Haiti," said Lt. Col. Lawrence Rizzo, chief of safety and C-21 pilot for the 103rd Airlift Wing who also flew the deployers to South Carolina.