Air Force Rescues Seven in Haiti Relief Efforts
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 Air Force special operations forces in Haiti have rescued seven survivors of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake that continues to wreak havoc on the country in its wake, according to Air Force officials.
News of the rescues represents a small victory in the face of what some have described as one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.
Air Force special operations forces have been manning the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince since about 8 p.m. yesterday, conducting airfield operations in addition to recovery and rescue efforts, said Air Force Lt. Col. Brett J. Nelson.
“Within hours of our arrival last evening, we established airfield control and have maintained that control conducting 24-hour operations at Port-au-Prince airport,” Nelson, the commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, said during a conference call with reporters today.
Air Force personnel have been engaged in operations to rescue potential survivors from collapsed buildings, he said. The colonel added that a number of Americans have been evacuated via the airport, but declined to provide an exact figure.
Nelson corrected media reports that said airport operations grinded to a halt after being saturated with aircraft. He acknowledged that operations at the airport have slowed down under the stress, with 44 aircraft crowding the space at one point today, but maintained that operations are ongoing.
Nelson also clarified that the airfield has power and is able to sufficiently light the premises to conduct night air operations.
Flanked by his national security team today, President Barack Obama elevated the humanitarian response in Haiti to the top of his priority list, enlisting the aid of government agencies and imploring Americans to extend compassion to those in need.
“I've made it clear to each of these [U.S. government] leaders that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now. This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership,” Obama said in remarks at the White House.