DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
In late-November at Dyess AFB, the 317th Airlift Wing was in the midst of a wing-wide exercise; this meant 24-hour operations for the men and women participating in the ‘Ability to Survive and Operate’ or ATSO exercise, “Chemical Fury.”
But real-world demands stop for no one, Air Force exercise or not.
As exercise events progressed at Dyess, the 317th AW was called upon to support post-Hurricane Iota lifesaving and disaster-relief operations in South America.
“In the midst of a wing-wide exercise, we came together as a team and launched three of our aircraft to support U.S. Southern Command’s hurricane relief efforts,” explained Lt. Col. Christopher Coffman, 317th Operations Support Squadron director of operations.
The 317th AW's contributions complemented U.S. Southern Command’s ongoing support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-led foreign disaster assistance to countries impacted by a succession of devastating hurricanes. On Nov. 22, the Dyess C-130J transported 68 Colombian Army Soldiers to the Colombian island of San Andrés. In addition to the troops, the Dyess team transported 40,000 pounds of food and water.
1st Lt. Adam Wulchin, 317th AW C-130J pilot, was one of two acting pilots who worked to move cargo and personnel to the island of San Andrés. According to Wulchin, the wing routinely provides critical support to the Central and South American region through Joint Task Force-Bravo.
“We bring unique airlift capabilities that help save lives and aid in the recovery process,” said Wulchin. “I am proud and honored to be able to help and support the people of South America.”
Hurricane Iota caused significant damage in San Andrés Island and Providencia. In response, Colombian authorities declared a disaster and requested U.S. assistance via the U.S. Embassy Bogotá.
According to Coffman, while a 39th Airlift Squadron crew executed this particular mission, "our 40th Airlift Squadron remains gainfully employed in Central America and the Caribbean.”
“Additionally, these missions don’t happen without the support of Team Dyess," continued Coffman. "Our maintenance personnel “push” us out the door and continue to support us on the road, no matter how long the mission. The 7th Bomb Wing continually supports our mobility mission 365 days a year. Without the support of our host wing to launch our aircraft day or night, we could not provide Global Reach for America."
San Andrés and Providencia are located more than 140 miles southeast of Puerto Cabezas, a Nicaraguan port city in the Central American country’s Caribbean coast.
U.S. Southern Command is coordinating its support of ongoing U.S. foreign disaster assistance operations in the region with USAID.
To date, U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force-Bravo, based at Honduras’ Palmerola Air Base, has conducted 148 rescue and relief-support missions in areas devastated by hurricanes Eta and Iota, rescuing 322 victims and delivering more than 640,000 pounds of disaster relief supplies, an amount equivalent to the combined weight of 25 conventional school buses.
As committed partners in a whole of government approach, these efforts complement the $17 million in humanitarian assistance allocated to USAID for relief efforts in response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota.