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123rd supporting earthquake relief in Haiti

Airmen from the Kentucky National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group unload a Rhode Island C-130 aircraft delivering emergency supplies for the earthquake victims in Haiti at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  on Jan. 25. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help with the wounded Haitian refugees.  The Guardsmen established the air hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid for victims of the earthquake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group unload a Rhode Island Air Guard C-130 aircraft delivering emergency supplies to an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, on Jan. 25. The supplies are bound for earthquake victims in Haiti. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the air hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Lt. Col David Mounkes, the Global Mobility Squadron Commander from the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group, talks with Sgt. Eric Thompkin from the Canadian Air Force at an air hub at Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Lt. Col David Mounkes, Global Mobility Squadron Commander from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, talks with Sgt. Eric Thompkin from the Canadian Air Force at an air hub at Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Vital medical supplies await pick-up at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 24 after being delivered by U.S. Air Force airlift for the vicitms of the earthquake in Haiti. The Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to assist wounded Haitian refugees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Vital medical supplies await pick-up at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24 after being delivered by U.S. Air Force airlift for the vicitms of the earthquake in Haiti. The Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to assist wounded Haitian refugees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Skeens from the Kentucky National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group conducts an inventory of water at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 24. The water is to be shipped to earthquake victims in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Skeens from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group conducts an inventory of water at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24. The water is to be shipped to earthquake victims in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Staff Sgt. Ray Graves of the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group loads life-saving plasma onto a truck at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 24. The truck is enroute to earthquake-damaged Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Staff Sgt. Ray Graves of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group loads life-saving plasma onto a truck at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24. The truck is enroute to earthquake-damaged Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Staff Sgt. Ray Graves from the 123rd Contingency Response Group, Kentucky Air National Guard, loads pallets of water on a truck at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan 24. The water is destined to assist earthquake victims in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Staff Sgt. Ray Graves from the 123rd Contingency Response Group, Kentucky Air National Guard, loads pallets of water on a truck at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan 24. The water is destined to assist earthquake victims in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a New York Air National Guard C-130 at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 24. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help wounded Haitian refugees. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a New York Air National Guard C-130 at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help wounded Haitian refugees. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a New York Air National Guard C-130 at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 24. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help wounded Haitian refugees. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a New York Air National Guard C-130 at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 24. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help wounded Haitian refugees. The Kentucky Guardsmen established the hub Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a New York Air Guard C-130 at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 25. The supplies will be convoyed to earthquake victims in Haiti. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help with wounded Haitian refugees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a New York Air Guard C-130 at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 25. The supplies will be convoyed to earthquake victims in Haiti. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help with wounded Haitian refugees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

A local truck driver prepares to lead a convoy of relief supplies from an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, into earthquake-ravaged Haiti on Jan. 25. The supplies arrived by airlift at the hub, which was established by the Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard on Jan. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)
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A local truck driver prepares to lead a convoy of relief supplies from an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, into earthquake-ravaged Haiti on Jan. 25. The supplies arrived by airlift at the hub, which was established by the Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard on Jan. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

The flightline at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, sees a steady flow of traffic Jan. 25 as humainitarian aid arrives for staging and subsequent distribution in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. The hub was established Jan. 22 by members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to process inbound food, water and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)
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The flightline at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, sees a steady flow of traffic Jan. 25 as humanitarian aid arrives for staging and subsequent distribution in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. The hub was established Jan. 22 by members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to process inbound food, water and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

The flightline at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, sees a steady flow of traffic Jan. 25 as humainitarian aid arrives for staging and subsequent distribution in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. The hub was established Jan. 22 by members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to process inbound food, water and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)
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The flightline at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, sees a steady flow of traffic Jan. 25 as humanitarian aid arrives for staging and subsequent distribution in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. The hub was established Jan. 22 by members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to process inbound food, water and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a Elmendorf Air Force Base C-17 aircraft at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 25. The supplies are bound for earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help wounded Haitian refugees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)
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Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group offload emergency supplies from a Elmendorf Air Force Base C-17 aircraft at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 25. The supplies are bound for earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti. Volunteers and medical professionals from nongovernmental relief organizations are pouring in to the Dominican Republic to help wounded Haitian refugees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard?s 123rd Contingency Response Group offload pallets of water, destined for the earthquake victims in Haiti, at an
air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic,  Jan. 25. The hub was established by the Kentucky Guardsmen Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)
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Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group offload pallets of water, destined for the earthquake victims in Haiti, at an air hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, Jan. 25. The hub was established by the Kentucky Guardsmen Jan. 22 to process inbound humanitarian aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than 45 members of the Kentucky Air Guard are playing a key role in Haitian earthquake relief efforts after deploying to the Caribbean last month to set up an air hub, facilitating the arrival of more than 600 tons of critical supplies like medicine, food and water.

The Kentucky Airmen -- all members of the 123rd Contingency Response Group -- established the hub in Barahona, Dominican Republic, on Jan. 22 as part of Operation Unified Response. Wasting no time upon arrival from Louisville aboard C-130 aircraft, they were ready to accept inbound cargo planes in just two hours, according to Lt. Col. David Mounkes, CRG element commander.

The Barahona hub is one of three air terminals currently being operated by the U.S. military to provide humanitarian aid to Haiti, where the Jan. 12 earthquake killed more than 120,000 residents and caused massive devastation.

The Barahona hub and another terminal in San Isidro, Dominican Republic, were established 10 days after the earthquake when the first hub, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, became saturated with staged cargo and could accommodate no more air traffic, Colonel Mounkes said.

Barahona is unique, he noted, because it is the only air terminal in theater to be run by Air Guard personnel.

"It's quite an honor for Kentucky to have the only Contingency Response Group in the Air National Guard that was called up to run an air hub," Colonel Mounkes said.

"This is a mission we're well-equipped to perform, and it's one that we take very seriously. We've been running 24-hour-a-day operations since we arrived in an attempt to get relief supplies to the earthquake victims as soon as possible. Every minute counts."

The Barahona hub is based at Maria Montez International airport, a seldom-used airfield that was only semi-operable when the Kentucky Airmen arrived, Colonel Mounkes said. Although some military aircraft had already flown into Maria Montez prior to the Kentucky Air Guard's arrival, none were Air Mobility Command transports capable of the kinds of heavy lifting needed for humanitarian relief.

"When we first arrived, we met with a joint assessment team from U.S. Southern Command that had been here just over 24 hours," Colonel Mounkes said. "They had already set up minimal operations. But our capabilities added satellite voice and data communications, aircraft command and control, and the personnel and equipment necessary to off-load air cargo, including a 10,000-pound all-terrain forklift. We also established night-time arrivals for inbound aircraft.

"All this allows us to facilitate the handling of AMC and coalition aircraft so that cargo can be rapidly processed and staged for distribution."

Since establishing the air hub at Maria Montez, the 123rd Contingency Response Group has controlled the arrival and off-loading of more than 35 U.S. and coalition aircraft, Colonel Mounkes said. The cargo is being staged at the airport for subsequent transport into Haiti by civilian-contracted trucks.

To speed up cargo processing, airfield workers are pulling pallets of supplies off incoming aircraft while the planes' engines are still running, said Master Sgt. Larry Burba, a contingency response team chief. These EROs -- short for engine-running off-loads -- reduce the amount of time an aircraft sits on the flightline, occupying space that could accommodate another in-bound flight, Sergeant Burba said.

"We're downloading these aircraft in record time," he added. "The other day, we downloaded a C-130 in just 4 1/2 minutes, which is unheard of. The guys are just getting out there and knocking it out."

Among the material already processed for shipment into Haiti was highly perishable human plasma, said Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, director of public affairs for the Kentucky National Guard.

The plasma had a 24-hour shipping window when it arrived at the hub, meaning it needed to arrive in Haiti by the next day to be of any use in medical care.

"It came in at night and already had a clock ticking on it," Colonel Mounkes said. "Our guys went the extra mile to make sure contracting coordination went through so we could get the cargo into Haiti within the 24-hour time frame."

Personnel from the 123rd Contingency Response Group also have been assisting with the transport of injured refugees aboard Puerto Rico National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

"This has been a very rewarding mission for everyone involved," Colonel Mounkes said. "All our personnel are highly motivated to be down here, we work as a team, and every person is expected to function safely and efficiently while being proactive to address issues before they become problems.

"This is what we do, and we're very good at our jobs. I think that shows the kind of Airmen we have in the Kentucky Air National Guard -- Airmen who have the experience that allows them to come down here and perform a mission like this on short notice with unsurpassed professionalism. It also speaks to their spirit of volunteerism. All of these folks were able to notify their civilian employers, pack up and be ready to go within 24 hours of receiving notice."

Sergeant Burba, for one, is happy to be of service.

"I feel great to have the opportunity to come down here and help out the people of Haiti," he said. "We're just excited to do the mission. Everyone wants to get that cargo in here, download the aircraft and get it to Haiti as soon as possible. It's an awesome feeling to know that you're making a real difference in the world, for people who really need your help."