Deployed Air Commando coordinates air support for missions in Haiti

By Air Force 2nd Lt. Victoria Brayton
Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-As part of Operation Unified Response, the U.S. military has moved food, water, medical supplies, and medically evacuated injured citizens and transported military personnel throughout Haiti to meet the humanitarian needs in cities all around the country.

Stories of these resupply missions, aid distributions and heroic medical feats have touched the hearts of people around the world ever since the devastating earthquake hit Port-au-Prince Jan. 12.

One more story, which is often overlooked, reveals the lone flight suit in the sea of Army Combat Uniforms and Navy Battle Dress Uniforms that make up the Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command. The flight suit belongs to Capt. Nick, whose mission is to coordinate all of the air requirements for the JFSOCC, thereby making those stories of humanitarian aid and medical rescues possible.

Nick arrived in Haiti on Jan. 16, six hours after being notified that he would deploy. It was his first day back to work after one week of post-deployment time off for a deployment to Southwest Asia. But he was excited to be a part of the humanitarian mission.

"It's a good change of pace and I'm happy to help," Nick said. "There are people with needs and the American military has the assets and the capability to move things quickly all over the world. It's good that we can use those resources for this kind of mission."

Initially working for the Joint Special Operations Air Component, Nick got first-hand experience working with fellow Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen to coordinate air support with U.S. and international forces in the early days after the earthquake.

"It was hectic," he said. "It was so early in the process that there wasn't a system in place yet, so AFSOC had to put the process together."

He said he worked with Canadian, French and Italian forces as well as the Puerto Rican Air National Guard, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Army to offer support to agencies like the World Food Program and the United States Agency for International Development, as well as to the military forces on the ground.

Now working for the JFSOCC, the command above the JSOAC, Nick continues to collaborate with international forces and humanitarian agencies to move people and supplies to cities including Hinche, Gonaives, Cap-Haitien, Port-de-Paix, Jeremie, Gros Morne and Pignon, ensuring that aid reaches all parts of Haiti.

"I basically translate Army-speak and civilian requests into something that pilots can understand," he said. "Most people who want to get on a helicopter don't know all the information they need to pass on to make the mission happen."

Nick's job is to figure out that information. After taking a request from a non-governmental organization or the military, he determines the number of passengers, pounds and size-constraints, and works the timeline with the helicopter squadrons that have been flying the missions.

As of Feb. 24, the JFSOCC helped deliver 8,500 pounds of medical supplies, 9,500 pounds of food and water, and 73,000 hand-cranked radios to people all over Haiti.

"Ultimately, it's all about linking up needs with resources to help the people of Haiti," Nick said.

Page last updated Wed February 24th, 2010 at 15:13