JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --
Joint Base Charleston joined the relief efforts to help victims of Hurricane Florence by becoming a staging location for various rescue and relief units as of Sept. 14, 2018.
The teams standing by for the efforts consisted of the 334th Air Expeditionary Group, the South Carolina and Pennsylvania Army National Guard Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The proximity of Charleston to the affected area, the services readily available by the base and the local community, the aircraft support services/facilities, coupled with the fact that our Airmen at Joint Base Charleston are all Carolinians wanting to help their fellow neighbors makes Joint Base Charleston a great location to stage out of,” said Lt. Col. Michael Coppola, 628th Mission Support Group deputy commander. “Airmen and Sailors from Joint Base Charleston accepted over 250 rescue personnel, a military convoy, two C-130 missions, one C-17 mission, and seven helicopters to support rescue operations in the Carolinas.”
Within 36 hours of a tasking notification from US Northern Command, multiple units from Moody and Patrick Air Force bases from Georgia and Florida, respectively, teamed up to form the mobile 334th AEG. The group performed Total Force Integration in real time by integrating multiple aircraft, search and rescue personnel and support elements to mobilize and arrive at Joint Base Charleston’s flight line conducting 24-hour search and rescue alert. Although short notice, the base’s ride-out teams quickly accommodated the group’s requirements.
“Joint Base Charleston has been phenomenal at facilitating us,” said Col. Bryan Creel, 334th AEG commander. “They went from no one being on the base, then they got word that we were looking to come here, so they were literally opening the base gates and pushing people out to the airfield to open the tower, open refuel…everything just to get us in.”
The relief efforts also included the Pennsylvania and South Carolina Army National Guard HART teams. These civilian search and rescue specialists with military aviation capabilities use aircraft and rescue swimmers to aid in the response efforts where other means of rescue will not suffice.
“Pennsylvania Guard sent four helicopters down here to Joint Base Charleston,” said Master Sgt. George Roach, 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs broadcaster. “In times like these, active, guard and reserve components come together to create a very cohesive force.”
Further north from the Air Base, FEMA set up shop at North Auxiliary Airfield in North, South Carolina, hauling hundreds of trailers full of supplies to aid the North Carolina Army National Guard with logistical support.
However, this isn’t the first time FEMA has staged out of North Field. The airfield’s strategic location and supporting personnel makes it a hub for hurricane relief year after year.
“Joint Base Charleston has taken great care of us,” said Bond Luddeke, FEMA Federal Staging Area leader. “They are a great partner to have in a response effort like this. We are responding with the mindset that it is our own families that have been affected. We are here to help return those affected to a state of normalcy as soon as possible.”
With effects of Hurricane Florence still raging throughout the Carolinas, Joint Base Charleston stands as a partner for the joint force and ready for anything that comes our way.