JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – “As food is cooked and served to the children, a bright smile appears showing their gratitude. They sit quietly and eat, making sure not to leave a single grain of rice on their plates. As I sit nearby, I am quiet too. It feels like a sacred moment. I have seen enough through the years to know that each meal matters. For some, this is the only one that they have eaten that day and they are unsure when the next meal will come.”
This is the scene Tonya Hunt, vice president of Hope for Haiti’s Children, described after receiving 101,000 pounds of food through the Denton Amendment Program.
The Denton Program is a Department of Defense program that creates opportunities for nongovernment agencies to donate and move humanitarian aid on available space onboard military aircraft to DoD approved locations.
Major Eric Hodges, a pilot with the 313th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, flew the mission June 14 along with other squadron members supporting the Denton Program delivering the pallets of food to Haiti.
With 26 years flying with the 446th Airlift Wing, Hodges has flown more Denton Program missions than he can count.
“Growing up, my parents were involved with organizations in town that did a lot of volunteer work and worked to help those around them,” Hodges said. “This feels like that, working to give back to others.”
On this particular mission, the crew landed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where they picked up the 14 pallets of food bound for the Caribbean. The mission would not have been successful with the help of the aerial porters in Ohio and the 313th aircrew working together.
“Participating in this kind of mission has a different type of urgency with it,” Hodges said. “You know that you have to get it done because there are people relying on that cargo, so it becomes a high priority to get it done.”
In addition to providing aid, these missions also provide a unique opportunity for training and readiness. Pilots, aerial port teams, loadmasters and more gain experience with each mission.
“With a lot of these type of missions, the information we have beforehand is limited and you don’t always know what to expect when you get there,” he said. “It helps us be flexible and ready for anything.”
And Hodges added, “It feels good to help people out.”
A Child’s Hope International based out of Cincinnati donated the food, and Hope for Haiti’s Children organization coordinated the receipt of the food.
“Speaking on the Denton Program and its purpose,” said Hunt, who has used Denton Amendment Program several times. “It’s a mission that is executed with excellence from the donor of the cargo, to the coordination efforts of Denton Operations, the team that flies the mission, offloads, and walks across the tarmac to shake hands with the with the grateful organizations on the ground, and the tireless efforts of the government entities in Haiti.”
“It’s a mission that brings a countless number of people together, coordinating their time and efforts for one sole purpose – serving those who are in desperate need. It’s collaboration at its finest, and it reminds me that we can accomplish so much more when we work together.”
According to Hunt, 2,838 boxes of food, the equivalent of 613,008 meals, was delivered June 14. Within eight hours, the food had been safely delivered to the headquarters of seven organizations and was ready to feed children.
The Denton Amendment is a commodities transportation program that is jointly administered by U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. It allows for the transport of humanitarian goods on a space available basis using U.S. Military transportation. The program was initially created to use the extra space on U.S. cargo aircraft that were flying supplies into Central America.
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