ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands --
Members of the 14th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing, delivered 17 pallets containing more than 129,000 pounds of food and water to St. Croix, Virgin Islands in support of relief efforts after Hurricane Maria, Sept. 24.
The mission to St. Croix was one of two humanitarian missions flown to the Virgin Islands within 48 hours. The air crew flew their first mission to the islands Sept. 23, delivering a mobile air traffic control tower and 13,000 pounds of food.
The Rhode Island Air National Guard, 143rd Airlift Wing, was activated after Hurricane Irma to provide humanitarian aid to St. Thomas and St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Before Hurricane Maria, the 143rd AW Logistics Readiness Squadron had to evacuate St. Croix.
"When we left before the hurricane everything was green and lush and beautiful," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Manca, 143rd LRS cargo specialist. "When we came back it was completely different. Everything was brown, trees and telephone poles were flat. Houses had their roofs blown off. It looked like a bomb had gone off."
Nine pallets consisted of meals ready to eat, with more than 2,000 MREs per pallet. Eight pallets contained cases of bottled water, with more than 11,000 bottles of water per pallet. Manca was in the Army and specialized in humanitarian relief prior to joining the Air National Guard.
“I love it. It's why I joined the National Guard,” said Manca. “When our unit was activated I think most of us were excited to help. We empathize with the people of St. Croix. When we were here as a staging area for St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma, the people here were great and very supportive. To see them going through this is sad. I’m grateful we were able to come back and continue to help them out."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided the food and directed where supplies were being delivered. The Virgin Islands National Guard has been processing pallets of supplies and distributing them throughout the island.
“Having done countless combat operations with these aircraft, it's nice to use the aircraft in another role for which it is completely capable, namely, humanitarian relief,” said Flight Lt. Matt Jenkinson, 14th AS British royal air force exchange pilot. “We’ve taken in supplies to help ease people's pain and make their life a bit more comfortable. I feel very privileged to play a part in the relief operations responding to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”
Mobility Airmen provide essential peacetime and contingency access to global areas of operations through partnerships built with allied nations. Jenkinson has been assigned to the 14th AS for three years during his first posting in the United States.
“We train together because we fight together,” said Jenkinson. “The United States military is a strong ally of ours and has been for a long time. Working with the United States Air Force has been a proper privilege and will be for the years to come.”