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Tue, Nov 08, 2005

C-130s To The Rescue

Flight Crews Air Drop Aid Into Quake-Wracked Pakistan

Two C-130 Hercules flight crews left from Bagram, Afghanistan on Oct. 29 and air dropped an estimated 50,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies to victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan.

Fourteen container delivery system bundles filled with food, water, shelter and supplies descended on people below in need of the items made available.

"As far as the C-130 goes, you not only have a wartime mission, you have a peacetime mission, and that is was we did today," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Mario Mendizabal (left in photo), a loadmaster with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

The Airmen flew into Afghanistan , loaded the aircraft and set out on their peacetime mission to deliver relief aid. They credit their mission success to the preparation, planning and coordination of many other individuals.

"We definitely couldn't have done it without all the support," said Air Force Capt. Nate Dillon, a pilot for 774th EAS. "It all worked out with efficient planning."

From planning the route to reviewing training manuals, the crew worked hard to make sure the relief aid would reach its intended target.

"The only thing that was going through my mind was sticking with the checklist because it covers everything; and that"s what I did; it covered it step by step," Mendizabal said.

Mendizabal and his fellow loadmaster, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Atkinson (right in photo), said the training the two received was a point of reference they had to build upon to perform the mission. "We've both done CDS bundles for training at home with one or two but never 14 all at a time," Mendizabal said. "It's kind of something new for us."

Most of the aircrew had never taken part in a humanitarian relief mission so the experience for them meant something special, they said. "It's a very rewarding experience," Dillon said, who flew the aircraft for the Oct. 29 mission. "I think I can speak for all of us by saying that."

The experience was good for the crew. "It's something different and breaks up the monotony of what you"re used to doing," he said.

However, the change of mission did present its challenges, Dillon said.

Releasing the cargo on an unfamiliar drop zone is a difficult thing to accomplish, he said, but just like his loadmasters, their training to their deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom proved to be a success for the Airmen.

"We train for this at home in Alaska , and you see the same drop zone," Dillon said. "When you go into an unfa

miliar route, the terrain is a lot more significant; you have to time everything just right."

The front crew was cool, calm and collected for doing an airdrop on a drop zone they never saw and probably never will see again, Mendizabal said.

Mendizabal said the confidence they gain from the success of their mission will help them face future missions and that this was just part of their job.

"If it's hurricane relief, earthquake relief or tsunami relief, whatever you got for us, we can handle it," he said.

(Aero-News salutes US Army Sergeant Douglas DeMaio, 20th Public Affairs Detachment at Bagram, Afghanistan.)

FMI: www.centcom.mil

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