SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Three C-17s from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina and Dover Air Force Base, Delaware flew more than 300 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to Orlando, Florida, Sept. 9, 2017, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma's landfall Sept. 10.
"When the world presents a challenge, our Airmen adjust to meet the need and do what it takes to accomplish the mission," said Gen. Carlton Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander. "Our Airmen are mission ready and prepared to help others impacted by Hurricane Irma while meeting worldwide needs."
The mission came at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is coordinating the federal medical and public health medical support to states and territories impacted by one of the largest hurricanes in history.
"Across the federal family, we are committed to meeting the needs of local communities, especially in times of crises," said Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. "With the help from our partners at (the Defense Department), our medical personnel now are positioned to provide medical care after the storm, whether they're needed at overwhelmed hospitals or for residents taking refuge in evacuation shelters."
The team landed just before midnight in Orlando, dropped off medical teams to waiting busses and left as the edge of the storm began reaching the airport. As they took off, rain from Hurricane Irma's storm-front began to pelt the C-17's windshield. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., C-17s from Dover AFB loaded more health care professionals in a race against Mother Nature. The C-17 departed Washington, D.C. for Florida at about 12:40 a.m.
"I had no idea I would ever be doing anything like this, or be a part of a national effort to help out in hurricane relief," said Staff Sgt. Rob Lummus, 15th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "It's been pretty amazing to watch all the different pieces of the puzzle with all the groups working together."
The mission to deliver medical teams to Florida is one small piece of the overall response to Irma, led by the state of Florida and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Other agencies like the DoD and HHS are working to support the state where needed.
Aircraft and crews from JB Charleston evacuated from their base ahead of Hurricane Irma and are now operating out of other bases such as Scott AFB, Illinois, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. They are currently assigned to provide aeromedical evacuation and airlift to areas affected by the hurricane.
"It takes a tremendous amount of agility and coordination to relocate aircraft while simultaneously supporting global requirements," Everhart said. "Realizing what's at stake, our total force team rises up to the challenge every time."
A total force team of active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Airmen are working side-by-side with federal, state, local and international mission partners to ease suffering and assist in the nation's and international community's recovery from Hurricane Irma.