Air Force Crews Combing Coast; Other Military Assets Providing Aid
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2005 U.S. Air Force search-and-rescue crews have been combing the Gulf Coast since the afternoon of Sept. 24, and the Air Force's auxiliary volunteer force continues to assist in aerial damage assessment, while a variety of other specialized units continue to meet the needs of the areas affected by Hurricane Rita.
Thirteen HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, equipped with pararescue crews from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and the 347th Rescue Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flew 14 search-and-rescue missions, totaling nearly 50 flight hours, Sept. 24. The missions saved five individuals who were stranded, and the crews assisted in six other rescues. These crews will continue to methodically comb the coast today, Air Force officials said.
Members of the all-volunteer Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the Air Force, have flown the majority of aerial damage-assessment missions in recent days, a total of 42 missions to date concerning Hurricane Rita. They've also assisted with search-and-rescue missions. The CAP is staging 12 aircraft and 20 aircrews out of Dallas Mission Base, in Addison, Texas, and from Stinson, Texas, near San Antonio.
An Air Force U-2 surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft from the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., will return to Beale this afternoon after completing a mission to collect imagery of the affected Gulf Coast.
To accomplish these missions, the Air Force flew a total of 19 missions Sept. 24, for a total of 82 missions flown to date in preparation and response to Hurricane Rita, and planned to fly at least 10 additional missions today in the affected Texas and Louisiana coastal areas.
An Air National Guard Contingency Response Group has stood up at Ellington Field, in Houston, to assist relief and recovery efforts as needed.
Approximately 990 servicemembers, mostly active duty Navy and their families, who had evacuated from coastal military installations to Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, prior to Rita's landfall, are expected to be released to return home today. These individuals have been housed in military lodging and fed in base dining facilities for the last several days.
The 20th Air Force deployed aircrews and support personnel from three of its bases to provide relief efforts in hurricane-stricken areas of Texas Sept. 24. The support contingency is based at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
"We responded with a substantial effort on our part to assist in the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina," Maj. Gen. Frank Klotz, 20th Air Force commander, said. "Our support to assist in Hurricane Rita relief efforts will be no different. We are responding with some of our very best airmen and helicopters to provide support to the relief effort in any way we can during these challenging times."
Six UH-1N Huey helicopters, two each from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., with approximately 70 aircrew and support personnel, including medical, air crew support and maintenance members, are assisting with search and rescue, and relief efforts.
The Texas National Guard has more than 3,500 soldiers and airmen assisting local, state and federal agencies with recovery efforts.
Guardsmen dispensed 18,000 gallons of fuel to several hundred law enforcement, safety, medical, and other local and state first responders Sept. 24.
National Guard helicopters took to the skies just hours after the storm passed and plucked a stranded motorist from a flooded roadway near Lake Livingstone.
The Texas Guard flew assessment missions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other local emergency-management officials to determine the extent of damage.
Ellington Field, near Houston, reopened Sept. 24 by mid-morning, allowing the Texas Air National Guard 136th Airlift Wing, from Fort Worth, to establish an aerial logistics site to fly in water, military rations and other supplies to first responders, Texas National Guard personnel, and others in need.
(Compiled from U.S. Air Force and Texas National Guard news releases.)