Home : News
Guard News

Joint effort moves personnel, cargo to Virgin Island storm victims

By Sgt. Juanita Philip | Virgin Islands National Guard | Sept. 11, 2017

ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands - In a joint effort, Soldiers and Airmen – with the help of U.S. Navy helicopters and crew - moved personnel and tremendous amounts of cargo from St. Croix to St. Thomas and St. John to aid Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.

Thirty-six members of the Virgin Islands National Guard and 164th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 164th Airlift Wing Air National Guard out of Memphis, Tennessee, and Rhode Island set up an Air Terminal Operations Center and conducted Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration out of the UPS air terminal near the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.

"We've been tasked to assist with the hurricane relief," said Air Force Master Sgt. John Briggs, a 2T2 aerial porter, with the 164th LRS.

"This would consist of airfield operations - support the download and upload of immediate assistance of food, water and necessities to help rebuild and support St. Thomas and St. John."

The squadron departed Memphis with 15 members and shortly after picked up an additional 15 members from Rhode Island. The team is a mix of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves.

The two entities -164th LRS and JRSOI team- work seamlessly to move everyone and everything through the terminal.

"We assisted the Aerial Air Terminal Operations Center in processing VING members and civilians who deployed to St. Thomas," said Army Capt. Wanda Williams, the JRSOI officer-in-charge, Joint Force Headquarters, VING.

In addition to the military members, the team moved civilian law enforcement, American Red Cross volunteers, Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, and MREs [meals, ready to eat] and water rations from the agency to the affected areas.

The team moved a total 113 passengers on Sept. 9, as well as massive amounts of supplies.

"As a team we're co-located and assist each other in moving cargo and personnel and conducting JRSOI to track the personnel," she added.

Although team members work long hours, they have not progressed to continuous operations yet.

"We are capable of 24-hour operations, and it continues to increase as the days move forward, Briggs said.

"I would speculate that the volume of cargo we have moved is probably in the thousands as it related to MREs."

According to Briggs, the schedule of operations is that all arriving personnel and cargo move through the ATOC [Air Terminal Operations Center] in this order.

All people and their personal effects and cargo are manifested by the 164th LRS. They proceed to a waiting area where they are seated to await JRSOI operations where they are in-processed, then briefed on current situation of safety, basic operational/situational awareness and assessment.

The final step is loading onto the aircraft for travel to the affected areas.

"We have come under the direction of assistance and we have done that. The folks in this region have been very receptive to include helping us out in return,"
he said.

"We are here to work hard and assist in any way we can; we are here to the finish."

Williams echoed Briggs' dedication to the mission and relief of suffering to all involved in this disaster.

"We have an awesome team, and it's all about moving the Airmen, Soldiers and civilian personnel over to provide that aid and relief to the citizens of St. Thomas and St. John."