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Super Port assists in hurricane relief effort

By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Nov. 20, 1998) -- Whether it's hauling a shipment of troops and equipment to Southwest Asia, or moving a load of humanitarian relief supplies to hurricane victims in Central America, it's all part of the job for the 486th Aerial Port Squadron here.

The aerial port received approximately 250 tons of supplies Nov. 12 and 13, the equivalent of two fully loaded C-5 Galaxies. The squadron palletized the aid, which ranged from food and clothing to badly needed medical supplies.

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"All the humanitarian aid that came in was processed that night and ready to go," said Lt. Col. Paul Curtis, 436th Aerial Port Squadron commander. "That was in addition to supporting Phoenix Scorpion III and doing our regular work. We were pulling people from staff areas and offices just to handle this all at once."

"I'm normally a safety guy," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Routzahn, 486th Aerial Port Squadron. "Cargo comes through here every day, you don't know where it's going. But, whenever it comes through and you know you're actually helping people, the flood stricken, it puts faces with the work. It puts pride with what you do."

"I think they rather enjoyed it," said Curtis. "They volunteered to do it. And not just military, we had our civilians helping as well."

I've never seen everyone work so hard. I was impressed," said Joseph Reilly, a 436th APS civilian material handler. "It was organized and non-stop. I don't know how we did it, but I felt good about it. We worked hard."

"It's a good morale thing. It allows us to work together as a team and enjoy doing something a little different. It pulls the whole Port together," said Curtis.

"It's incredible," said Brian Mulligan, of the New York Catholic Health Care Network, an organization involved with providing relief to Central American disaster areas. "We would not have been able to get our supplies down there without the military. The other option would have been a private ship. It would have taken seven to ten days in sea time.

"The immediacy and coordination was fantastic in our view," Mulligan continued. "I think that the crew at Dover was very helpful in helping us to prioritize the movement of supplies. They ensured medical supplies were shipped out first even though they were on the last truck to arrive."

In spite of the effort, Mulligan said there is still much work to be done. "It may take in upwards of 30 years to get the region back on track," he said.

But the Dover APS is ready for the challenge.

"The military's goal is defending the country and supporting the objectives of the United States," Curtis said. "It's national policy. In this case, national policy was humanitarian relief to a national ally. It's part of the mission.

"This mission falls under the Denton Program and makes moving this type of cargo part of the job we do," Curtis said, referring to a 1985 amendment to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. "It allows the Department of Defense to transport humanitarian assistance by air or sea on a space-available basis free of charge.

"Under this program, relief comes from all over the country," Curtis continued. "The government supplies the transportation, the manpower and the facilities. People donate the food, the medicine and the clothing. And a lot of it's from private citizens, out of peoples' closets and pantries."

Efforts like this are not easy. It takes a lot of effort and teamwork to make it happen.

"The Port is pretty much known as the 'Can do squadron,"' said Curtis. "We're well known for the amount of volume we ship, how fast we move things and how efficient our process is, so a lot of this humanitarian effort will come through here. We have motivated and dedicated people and we can get the job done efficiently and effectively. That's why they send it to the Super Port."

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