By By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs, USAFJanuary 3, 2008
LA CEIBA, Honduras (Army News Service, Jan. 03, 2008) -- A Civil Military Operations team from Joint Task Force-Bravo delivered 100 donated wheelchairs to disabled villagers on the isolated Miskito Coast of Honduras Dec. 28.
For Sgt. 1st Class Julio Reyes, the Civil Military Operations noncommissioned officer in charge, this was his first role in a civil-military operation. His coordination and planning brought the first 100 of what will be 460 wheelchairs to the area. He is currently planning to deliver the remaining chairs directly to the remote villages in need.
"We're pretty much the link up between the military and the missionaries to make sure the chairs get where they need to be," Sgt. 1st Class Reyes said. "These wheelchairs are for some lobster fishermen who lost the use of their legs. And it's important for us to show we're here to support them since we're guests in their country."
Using two U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters to transport the wheelchairs was a lot easier and quicker than the alternative, Sgt. Reyes said. Moving the chairs by truck over the region's poorly maintained rural roads would have taken more than six hours.
The wheelchairs were donated to isolated villages along the Miskito Coast by the Alabama non-profit organization Missions Unlimited. The chairs will help the many lobster fishermen along the coast who have lost the use of their legs from the effects of decompression sickness while diving for their catch.
Ken Key, chief executive officer for Missions Unlimited, dubbed the wheelchairs "the gift of mobility" for recipients. He says the program's volunteers are akin to honeybees.
"It's a lot of people doing a little bit at a time," he said. "And they all work together to make a sweet product."
The wheelchairs were flown from the United States to Honduras aboard a U.S. Air Force aircraft under the Denton Amendment program. That program allows private U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on U.S. military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods to countries in need.