Four 54th Helicopter Flight Airmen and one UH-1N “Huey” helicopter departed here today for Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., to assist in Hurricane Katrina disaster response
MINOT AFB, N.D. – Capt. David Fink, 54th Helicopter Flight pilot, adjusts his helmet strap in a UH-1N "Huey" helicopter in preparation for takeoff here Sept. 2. Captain Fink, Maj. Brian McGraw, 54th HF pilot, (background) and two others departed for Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., to assist in Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts. The base, thus far, is sending 13 people and 1 helicopter from the 54th Helicopter Flight to aid the recovery. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Laws)
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MINOT AFB, N.D. – Four 54th Helicopter Flight Airmen and one UH-1N “Huey” helicopter departed here today for Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., to assist in Hurricane Katrina disaster response.
The crew, comprised of two pilots, a flight engineer and contract maintenance crew chief will stage from the Mississippi base and aid efforts throughout the southeastern region. Two additional crews and contract maintenance from Minot will also depart for Columbus this weekend.
“We are pleased to support the disaster response efforts in the southeast,” said Col. Dan Ciechanowski, 91st Operations Group commander. “Our crews are trained to conduct the missions required and are very happy to be able to help those in need during this dire humanitarian crisis.”
The crews are trained in search and rescue, as well as transporting people and supplies to areas where ground travel isn’t available. Specific mission requirements will be determined once crews are in place.
“I’m excited, but also there is a sadness to why we are going down there,” said Capt. David Fink, 54th HF pilot. “I hope we can help out as much as we can. It’s great to be able to do the job we are trained to do – help people.”
The crew chiefs going with the helicopters are primarily prior military helicopter mechanics and contracted by Doss Aviation.
“We are all pumped up,” said David Licht, Doss Aviation site manager. “The crew chiefs will provide maintenance very similar to how they do here but under field conditions.”
Air Force Space Command and 20th Air Force deployed the 54th HF along with five helicopters and approximately 55 people from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
“We extend our condolences to the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Klotz, 20th AF commander. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all the citizens of the affected towns and counties, and to their families during these difficult and trying times.”
At this time, there is no defined limit on how long the crews will stay in the south.
The 54th HF was last called upon for humanitarian support during the 1997 floods in Grand Forks, N.D.