147th Reconnaissance Wing responds to Haiti earth quake

  • Published
  • By MSgt Dale Hanson
  • 147 Reconnaissance Wing
Within hours of the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 147th Reconnaissance Wing received taskings to support the relief efforts for Haiti. Specifically the 147th RW was tasked to support Texas Task Force One (TX-TF-1), a Type I Urban Search and Rescue Team made up of 80 personnel consisting of search and technical rescue personnel, physicians, paramedics, structural engineers, other support personnel, and approximately 50 tons of rescue equipment and supplies.

The 147RW was tasked to support TXTF-1 with operational and logistical help and to provide a ramp where their airlift could stage. TXTF-1 had earlier been recalled by Texas Governor Rick Perry and gave operational control to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for deployment to the disaster area. The 147th RW and Ellington Joint Reserve Base were picked the Department of Defense USTRANSCOM and FEMA early in the recall as the best place for TX-TF-1 to stage and deploy from. The 147th RW received it's taskings from the Joint Operations Center at Texas National Guard State Headquarters at Camp Mabry, Austin Texas 6 hours after TX TF-1 was recalled. One Wing member on TX TF-1 helped coordinate the logistical and support needs of the task force.

On a cold, wet and windy day the eighteen wheelers and buses transporting personnel and equipment for TX TF-1 from their staging area in College Station, Texas arrived at the 147 RW ramp and events quickly unfolded. A team of volunteers from the 147 RW was formed and mobilized and quickly gathered to offload the trucks carrying TX TF-1 pre-palletized equipment. During the unloading it was decided that many of the prepackaged pallets needed to be repacked in order to meet current USAF requirements. 147 RW personnel, with inputs from TX TF-1, developed and executed a plan to reconfigure the pallets that were now sitting inside the hangar, Building 1382. In short order 147 RW personnel repacked, netted, measured, weighed and completed paperwork for approximately 22 pallets and 3 pieces of rolling stock. TX-TF-1 was waiting airlift confirmation to take them to earth quake ravaged Port Au Prince, Haiti.

In the meantime, the 147RW OPS desk had gone to a 24 hour operation as they awaited confirmation of the proposed airlift, but that confirmation never materialized. At around noon the next day, 15 January 2010, FEMA decided TX-TF-1 would remain in the Houston area over the weekend, on a short notice standby, as airlift was still being coordinated. Many search and rescues by now had arrived in Port Au Prince and on Monday 18 January 2010 the United Nations mission in Haiti declared sufficient search and rescue teams were on the ground. Texas Task Force One stood down and did not deploy as a result. All the time and effort the 147 RW and Texas Task Force One spent preparing for the deployment was not in vain, it was an invaluable, real world training exercise.

One element of the 147 RW was tasked to directly support the Haiti Relief effort. An RC-26B aircraft and crew from the 147th Reconnaissance Wing have deployed to Operation Unified Response, military relief for victims of the Haiti earthquake. The RC-26B is an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft normally used for counter drug operations. It is equipped with full motion video cameras that will aid in the relief effort, it is able to directly link live video feeds to decision makers on the ground. The RC-26B will be based in the Dominican Republic but will fly missions in earthquake ravaged areas of Haiti.