Sunday, March 06, 2011

Ramstein Units Partner to Help Evacuees From Libyan Conflict

By U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Fisher, Special to American Forces Press Service

NAVAL AIR STATION SOUDA BAY, Crete, March 6, 2011 - Several Ramstein Air Base units have been key to providing airlift support for the humanitarian crisis on Libya's borders since U.S. President Barack Obama provisioned military support, March 3, 2011.

The 37th Airlift and Air Mobility Squadrons, working in concert with 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) for U.S. Africa Command, are providing this capability. While 37th crews are flying humanitarian relief missions, members of Ramstein's 435th Contingency Response Group are facilitating the missions, providing everything from communications and command and control to force protection.

As the air component for AFRICOM, 17th Air Force is orchestrating the missions through its planning staff and 617th Air and Space Operations Center, collocated with its Ramstein Headquarters.

After more than two years under AFRICOM, 17th is well-versed in cooperative efforts between Departments of Defense and State. So when a humanitarian crisis followed political upheaval in North Africa, 17th Air Force was ready to assist the State Department-led relief effort, according to Air Force Major General Margaret Woodward, 17th AF commander.

"We were able to quickly answer the call and play our part by orchestrating airlift to ease suffering among the Libyan people and third country nationals who have crossed the borders seeking relief from the conflict there," Woodward said. "Operating in Africa has given us many chances to work and become familiar with supporting our partners in the State Department. We're happy to be able to contribute, and we hope, along with the efforts of many other countries, we'll be able to improve the situation for people in need as a result of this conflict."

Air Force Lt. Col. Charles "Doc" Schlegel said the 17th effectively brought the units together to execute the humanitarian missions.

"The 17th coordinated the effort and made it possible for aid to be quickly delivered to people who are in need, and for us to move evacuees," Schlegel said. "We have been working together to adapt to an evolving situation and provide assistance in support of the overall U.S. government response. So far, it's a great example of Team Ramstein working together."

Schlegel's team began flying humanitarian relief mission March 4, 2011, and has delivered relief supplies to Tunisia for USAID and shuttled more than 300 displaced Egyptian citizens to Cairo.

The team's ability to adapt has been key to their contribution on what Air Force Captain Jason Powell called deemed "an international scale."

"We started March 3, we partnered our capabilities with the 17th to support the State Department and things are going fairly smoothly," said the Captain, the director of operations for the 435th's Contingency Response Element. "Things are always changing, but it's a testament to our flexibility that we continue to make progress on this mission. We are really stoked, to go in and make a difference for people that are suffering."

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Fisher is assigned to 17th Air Force Public Affairs)