By Eve Meinhardt/ParaglideJanuary 20, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - On Monday afternoon, 38 pallets containing much needed supplies landed via parachute onto designated drop zones in Haiti. These supplies, packed for air delivery by riggers from the 11th Quartermaster Company, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, were part of the continuing effort to provide humanitarian aid to the areas devastated by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook the country Jan. 12.
Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander, XVIII Airborne Corps, said that the bundles were dropped from a C-17 aircraft that departed from Pope Air Force Base. The parachutes carried 14,000 meals and 4,000 gallons of water for the Haitian people.
While Helmick said air landing is the preferable method of delivery, an airdrop is a valuable capability that Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base are able to provide if necessary. The decision to drop provisions was partially due to the heavy air traffic at the airport in Port au Prince, Haiti and the dire need for supplies.
Helmick said Fort Bragg Soldiers are doing everything they can with the capabilities they have to assist with the humanitarian effort and continue to press forward with a high sense of urgency.
"Our level of urgency has not changed here at Fort Bragg. This is what we do for a living. We are America's Contingency Corps," said Helmick.
"We have the flexibility, we have the forces and we have the facilities here. We have the strategic deployment help from Pope Air Force Base and we've joined together to rapidly deploy anywhere the nation asks us to deploy."
Col. James Johnson, commander, Pope AFB, said since the mission became active a few days ago, Airmen out of Pope AFB have already flown about 50 missions. The missions have helped bring the over 800 paratroopers from the 82nd Abn. Div. and 150 XVIII Abn. Corps Soldiers into Haiti.
"It's really an honor for us to be able to serve and work so closely with our brothers and sisters here at Fort Bragg," said Johnson. "We are meeting the timeline now that we have and the Airmen here are really doing incredible work to accelerate the arrival of the force."
Helmick said another 1,500 paratroopers from the 82nd's 2nd Brigade Combat Team will soon depart as well as 400 additional pieces of equipment including generators, humvees and trucks to provide further assistance to the devastated country.
"We train to make sure Fort Bragg and personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division are ready when called upon," he said. "So far, I have to say we've met the challenge here."
Spc. Alex Russell, with the 1st Bn., 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., is trained and ready. The two-time Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran said he anxious to get to Haiti and said the humanitarian mission is going to be a nice change of pace.
"It is good to be going somewhere new and have a different mission. It's going to be a lot different than what I'm used to since this is to provide humanitarian aid. It will be nice to have the chance to hand out food and help people," Russell said.