Sister aerial port squadrons load up for FEMA response

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. --

As Hurricane Irma’s ferocious momentum ravaged parts of the Caribbean Islands Sept. 8, reservists with Westover’s two aerial port squadrons led the Patriot Wing’s response to the huge storm.

More than 20 Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 58th and 42nd Aerial Port Squadrons answered the Sept. 8 tasking from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.The reservists loaded more than 120 tons of FEMA supplies aboard three C-17 Globemaster III airlifters. The C-17s began arriving at Westover early in the morning of Sept. 9. All three aircraft, which left Westover early Sept. 10, were scheduled to airlift the FEMA supplies to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The third C-17, ready for loading as darkness fell on the Westover flight line Sept. 9, backdropped a spectacle as local news media and base public affairs cameras rolled. FEMA vehicles and trailers streamed out of Hangar 3 and formed a procession of flashing lights as drivers made their way across Westover’s spacious flight line.

C-17 loadmasters, aerial porters, and FEMA officials huddled under the towering tail of the aircraft to discuss final loading preparations. They eventually onloaded 50,000 pounds of cargo, which included a FEMA fuel truck and various supplies.

Tech. Sgt. Peter Alicia-Correa, 42nd APS aircraft services supervisor, was among the first of the aerial porters to coordinate the major FEMA tasking. He credited the performance of his fellow Airmen amid the sudden and major FEMA tasking.

“Senior Airman (Alex) Church was very helpful on the flight line and worked extremely hard,” Alicia-Correa said.

Church, who lives in Westfield, Mass., is assigned to the 42nd’s sister squadron, the 58th APS. He offered his time to explain the aerial port mission during a media interview by the flight line.

Besides the aerial port squadrons, FEMA also coordinated efforts with Westover’s emergency management director, Robert Perreault, whose staff is already well-versed in FEMA operations, since Westover is a designated FEMA staging base.  And Senior Master Sgt. Charles Carlin, superintendent of the base’s installation deployment readiness cell, coordinated initial taskings with various base agencies from FEMA and the Air Force’s Northern Command Sept. 9.

“Our Airmen make amazing things happen when using aircraft and equipment to do their jobs,” said Col. D. Scott Durham, 439th Airlift Wing commander. “These Airmen are proud to serve as a Total Force lifeline to those in need.”

While the aerial porters didn’t deploy with the C-17s, these Reserve Citizen Airmen are ready for any further direction from the federal government. As of Sept. 11, Hurricane Irma was a Category 1 storm.