US starts United Assistance flights over Ebola

Cargo is loaded onto the ramp of a C-130-J Super Hercules, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany (Image © (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller)
Cargo is loaded onto the ramp of a C-130-J Super Hercules, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany (Image © (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller)

Airmen from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein airbase, Germany, loaded a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules with needed supplies and launched their first mission October 7 to West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance. The aircraft made stops in Spain, Senegal and Liberia, which is one of the most heavily affected areas of the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

With president Barack Obama’s announcements to increase U.S. efforts to respond to the Ebola virus epidemic, the U.S. Africa Command is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to deliver much needed support.

Part of AFRICOM’s effort is the tactical theater airlift provided by the 86th Airlift Wing, whose Airmen are eager to do their part in the humanitarian effort. “We’re super excited to get down there and help as much as we can,” said Capt. Brian Shea, 37th AS aircraft commander. “The 37th AS is a key component in AFRICOM’s mission to establish an air bridge for the operation. This mission is big for the 86th AW and our squadron.”

Although the 37 AS team only expects to be on the ground in Liberia for a few hours, Shea was confident his team was well educated and prepared to handle any anticipated medical concerns, including receiving all required vaccinations and medical clearance to participate in missions throughout Africa. “We’re not expecting to have any issues going into the theater,” Shea explained. “We’ve been briefed and trained on how to handle any medical concerns if need be.”

While this may be the first flight out of Ramstein to provide cargo support to OUA, the 37th AS is anticipating a consistent airflow requirement to assist with cargo and personnel transfer in and out of areas in need. “I’m proud to be part of a mission like this,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Byrne, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief. “I’m ready to get down there and do some good things.” The U.S. will continue to respond quickly and safely with African and international partners to help end the spread of the Ebola disease as soon as possible.

Source: 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, by Staff Sgt. Sara Keller, USAF