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MacDill Airmen launch relief efforts for islands affected by Hurricane Maria

  • Published
  • By Capt. Joe Simms
  • 927th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reservists assigned to the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, have established operations to support humanitarian relief efforts on the islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix.

Air Force Reserve medical personnel, and aircrews from multiple locations, are currently staged at MacDill AFB, with the first medical evacuation flight departing Sept. 24, in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The Airmen of the 45th AES bring with them the capability to operate on multiple aircraft, providing inflight medical care while manning the aeromedical evacuation operations team that oversees all flights into and out of the Caribbean for this operation.  AES crews are trained to handle a full range of military operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Within hours after Maria, a category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds pummeled Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Reserve Citizen Airmen throughout the country were responding to the call for help.

Air Force Reserve medical personnel will continue to depart from MacDill AFB over the next several days for Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix, to transport individuals to one of four medical facilities in the Southeastern United States.

For Reserve Citizen Airmen with family in the islands, such as Tech. Sgt. Maria Ayala who has family in Puerto Rico, this missions take on a more personal meaning.

“The other day I was able to speak to a cousin of mine who said they have seen my mom and she was okay,” said Ayala. “I still have not heard from my father though.”

Senior Airman Jamie Price, a medical technician with the 45th AES also expressed his desire to help those affected by the storm.

“I’m honored to be able to help out the areas that were devastated by Hurricane Maria and bring the sick and injured to the U.S. to give them the care they need.”

The 45th AES is assigned to the 927th Air Refueling Wing, the Air Force Reserve wing at MacDill Air Force Base. Over 90 percent of the Air Force’s aeromedical evacuation capability resides in the Air Reserve component, allowing Airmen to bring experience from their civilian jobs to provide medical care for military and civilian personnel.