Arizona National Guard Airmen deploy for Hurricane Irma relief efforts

GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz -- Fifteen Airmen assigned to the 161st Logistics Readiness Squadron, aerial port, small air terminal here, deployed Sept. 12 to the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide support  for Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.

The Airmen are trained experts in receiving and distributing personnel, supplies and equipment for an array of contingencies to include disaster relief. They join National Guard members and relief workers from various states in order to support local authorities with much-needed aid in the region. The length of the deployment is unknown at this time, however the Airmen are prepared for a 30-day mission.

The Airmen volunteered last week to assist, and on Sunday were tasked by the National Guard Bureau to deploy to St. Thomas. Within 48 hours they packed and loaded equipment pallets onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing from St. Joseph, Missouri.

“These Airmen are pumped and ready to go,” said Chief Master Sgt. Brad Hoelscher, the aerial port small air terminal superintendent. “This is what we’ve been training for – to be the go-to unit to support missions like these.”

The Airmen will join up with a Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, or RED HORSE, team that will focus on rebuilding runways and infrastructure so inbound aircraft can bring needed supplies to the islands.

Their primary duties while in the islands will include receiving inbound aircraft carrying supplies and people. They will process the supplies, and then redistribute by truck or small aircraft to the outlying islands.

“There couldn’t be a more important mission at this time as we represent the state of Arizona,” said Col. David Ciesielski, 161st Mission Support Group commander. “We have full faith and confidence in what they are going to do and we are here to assist.”