FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --
On August 25, Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall near the Texas Gulf Coast. According to Weather.com, Harvey’s extreme slow movement Aug. 26 to 30 kept a fire hose of moisture pointed into southeast Texas and Louisiana for days, resulting in catastrophic flooding. Additionally, wind gusts from Harvey near its’ landfall point topped 100 mph, leading to widespread destruction of homes and buildings.
Harvey dumped more than 25 trillion gallons of rain on Texas and Louisiana during a six day period. Nearly 74,000 people needed temporary shelter and losses are estimated to be more than $190 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
After the storm, Master Sgt. John, 29th Intelligence Squadron first sergeant, wanted to find a way to provide a helping hand, so he tasked one of his non-commissioned officers to come up with a way to help out the people affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Staff Sgt. Roxana, 29th IS Able Flight noncommissioned officer in charge, came up with a plan for 29th IS Airmen, to include Able Flight personnel, to go on permissive temporary duty to Houston to support relief and recovery efforts.
“Because this was a PTDY, Airmen needed to first receive operational and administrative support from their flights and had to pay out of pocket,” said Roxana. “Red Cross, however, provided lodging and food.”
From September 26 to October 23, more than 20 Airmen from the 29th IS traveled to Houston on their own time and money to offer logistics expertise and other specialized skills to assist in running a massive Red Cross field supply center and getting material to those affected by the hurricane, Roxana said.
As a result, her effort leading volunteers to help Houston’s hurricane victims led to the 29th IS permitting a follow-up PTDY for a second group of Airmen to replace some of the first group.
Upon their arrival, the second contingent of Airmen received training and were certified by the Red Cross in warehouse operations and bulk distribution, shelter management and emergency vehicle relief operations.
Warehouse operations and bulk distribution entailed loading and unloading supplies from trucks, driving supplies to other shelter locations, driving supplies into affected neighborhoods, completing inventory of warehouse pallets (administrative and clerical accountability) and distributing supplies, water and food.
“Our support, on average, allowed 22 trucks to make deliveries daily into affected areas, and shelters were able to maintain service to affected individuals and families,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael, the 29th IS commander’s executive.
In addition to teaming up with the Red Cross, the 29th IS also partnered with the 819th Rapid Emergency Deployment – Heavy Operation Repair Squadron Engineers (RED HORSE) from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
According to Michael, the Red Horse personnel provided technical training, including fork lift operations, pallet building, deconstruction and movement, and safety training to minimize potential injuries in a warehouse environment.
“A humbling experience” was the common response from the 29th IS volunteers when asked about their duty in Houston.
The majority of the volunteers also said the experience was one of their greatest satisfactions to date in their Air Force career.
“This is an effective use of our Airmen awaiting clearances, and a fantastic way to contribute to the community we serve,” said Col. Matteo Martemucci, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander.
“Our time in Houston was absolutely rewarding,” said Roxana. “We were able to work as a team in aspects that we would not have been able to on a day to day basis in the office. More importantly, we were able to directly help hurricane victims by providing essential supplies to help them rebuild their homes. “