Reserve Citizen Airmen from March Air Reserve Base are working long hours to facilitate earthquake and hurricane relief efforts through loading and launching aircraft that transport Urban Search and Rescue Teams to assist with rescue and relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Team March members from the 452nd Aerial Port Support Flight, 452nd Contingency Response Squadron, 452nd Civil Engineer Emergency Management, and 56th Aerial Port Squadron coordinated movement of aircraft, as well as cargo inspection and loading for Urban Search and Rescue Teams heading to areas recently ravaged by hurricanes and earthquakes. Task Force 2 from the Los Angeles Fire Dept., deployment to Mexico City, and also combined with Task Force 6 from the City of Riverside Fire Department, for deployment to Puerto Rico.
“I volunteered for Mexico because I have family down there,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Tovar, 452 APSF’s Air Traffic Operations Center. “I hope everything we are sending helps as much as possible.”
Tech. Sgt. Ernesto Jimenez, 452 APSF load team crew chief, who is responsible for the team loading the aircraft, attributes their success to the no-notification exercises they have done with the L.A. US&R Team, as well as his team’s cohesiveness.
“We go through the entire process so when it does happen we are all on the same page and everything operates smoothly,” Jimenez said. “Time is of the essence. We are dealing with people’s lives so making sure the mission gets done quickly and efficiently is key. Our team is very professional and has a can-do attitude,” he said.
The last time his team had this many humanitarian missions back-to-back was during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Jimenez said. The team members are Active Guard and Reserve, which means they work together full time. This allows for continuity and seamlessness when stitching together these type missions.
“Sandy tested our abilities and limits,” said Tovar. “We are comfortable now, with a 10- to 15-hour notice we are more than ready, willing and happy to be a service to this country and any others who need our help.”
Team March loaded and launched several of their C-17 Globemaster IIIs to aid relief efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Additionally, they received a C-17 and a C-5M Super Galaxy from the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., loaded both aircraft and launched them successfully within a three-day span to aid relief efforts for Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico City.
March ARB is the only location in its area with the capability to move palletized cargo quickly and efficiently. With its centralized location, task force teams from all around the region are afforded rapid response.
Additionally, March ARB Reserve Citizen Airmen provide training to international and national task force teams from L.A. and Riverside on all requirements to move cargo on military aircraft, which sets up the teams for success. This well-established, joint operations partnership pays dividends as witnessed with these recent deployments. Team March coordinates several task teams at once to provide support to multiple natural disaster locations.