37th AS delivers aid to Chadian Forces

1st Lt. Phillip Ulmer
435th Air Base Wing

***image1******image2***FAYA-LARGEAU AIRPORT, Chad — Answering an urgent request for assistance, units from Ramstein responded with two C-130 Hercules delivering more than 19 tons of humanitarian aid Saturday to Chad.
According to Chad officials here, three Chadian Army soldiers were killed and 16 were injured when they encountered and engaged a group of terrorists between the cities of Zouarke and Wour, 600 kilometers North of here. Officials also said that 40 of the terrorists were killed and four were taken into custody.
“Usually it takes about two days to plan a mission like this,” said Capt. Jeff Menasco, 37th Airlift Squadron instructor pilot and mission commander. “But we were airborne within an hour of being notified of the mission.”
Just a little more than 10 hours after takeoff, the runway on the edge of the desert creeps into sight. Landing on the 7,700-foot runway just outside of Faya-Largeau, the crews taxi the C-130s amid scrub brush and sand. The temperature soars into the 100s at this one-building airport. More than three-dozen armed Chadians, ready to help download the aircraft, greet the crews.
With no heavy equipment in sight to unload the aircraft, the crew opts to “combat offload” the nine pallets of food, blankets and medical supplies.
“When there’s no equipment available, the combat offload is the quickest way for us to download the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Larry Lambert, 37th AS chief evaluator loadmaster.
A combat offload consists of opening the back of the aircraft and releasing the pallet of cargo from its locks. The loadmasters position and steady the pallet. From here, the pilot stomps on the brakes and throttles up the engines. When the engines reach full speed, the pilot releases the brakes. As the Herk lunges forward, the pallets slip effortlessly off the back of the aircraft.
While the aircrew takes care of getting the humanitarian aid to Chad off the aircraft, members of the 86th Contingency Response Group handle security at the airfield where the aid is being delivered.
“Our job is to provide security for Air Force resources and people at locations that aren’t secure, so the crew can focus on their job,” said 1st Lt. Mike Jewell, 786th Security Forces Squadron Raven Team Leader. “While we haven’t encountered any problems, we’re always on the look out for suspicious activities.”
Keeping the 30-year-old Herks flying on the mission rested in the hands of four 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chiefs. They’re like a flying insurance policy — you hope you don’t need them, but they are there should any maintenance problem arises.
“If the plane’s not flying, there is no mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jason McKee, 37th Aircraft Maintenance flying crew chief. “We make sure the C-130s stay airworthy when we’re on the road. If something breaks while we’re away from Ramstein, we can fix it. We don’t want to be on the ground any longer than we need to be in a place like this.”
Governor Hassane Djangbeï, who governs the Bockou, Emmedi, Tibesti region of Chad, said that the military engagement with the terrorists led to the discovery and subsequent seizure of implicating documents and equipment.
“We took five trucks with large machine guns mounted in the back, as well as a large weapons cache of rocket propelled grenades, AK-47s, mortars and ammunition,” said Governor Djangbeï through an interpreter. “We also discovered that the terrorists were well equipped with a handful of GPS units and satellite phones.”
After the cargo is delivered and the aircraft safely in the air, the crew focuses on returning back home.
“Our squadron and wing tactics planning cells did an incredible job to give us the tools we needed for this reactive mission,” said Captain Menasco. “I have to credit the professionalism, experience and competency of the entire crew for the safe completion of this extremely challenging mission. It’s the crew who made this mission happen.”
Chad, located in the North-central region in Africa, has become an important ally in the global war on terrorism with the Pan Sahel Initiative. The Pan Sahel Initiative is a U.S. Department of State Security Assistance Program focusing on four countries in the Sahara region of Africa.
The initiative supports U.S. national security interests combating terrorism and enhancing regional peace and security. It directly assists Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania in protecting their borders and exploiting opportunities to detect and deter terrorists by providing basic training and equipment.
“On behalf of the people of Chad, I’d like to thank the American government and the United States Air Force for the humanitarian aid you are delivering today,” said Governor Djangbeï. “This aid will help our injured soldiers and it will help us as we try to fight the terrorists in our region.”