SACRAMENTO, Calif. – From across the state they converged at Mather Airport early April 8 – a C-130J, Super Hercules and an equally impressive HC-130J Combat King II. Aircraft from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing and the 129th Rescue Wing loaded up their precious cargo and took off for points east.
Under the direction of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the flights were each loaded with 200 ventilators from the California Emergency Medical Service Authority’s (CalEMSA) stockpile. One aircraft landed at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, transferring the ventilators for distribution around New York and New Jersey. The other touched down at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, Illinois, delivering its cargo to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“In times of crisis, it’s more important than ever we are the UNITED States of America,” said Newsom. “California is answering the call for Americans in New York and across the country, loaning 500 state-owned ventilators to those in need. I know, if the tables were turned, other states would be there for us.”
But before those aircraft could take to the sky, individuals from CalEMSA, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), and the California National Guard had to work around the clock to box, check, package and move the 500 palletized ventilators promised by Newsom.
“Earlier this afternoon, we were given a mission to make ready 500 ventilators and all of their ancillary equipment that goes with them to put on a plane tomorrow morning,” explained Mark Ackerman, senior logistics adviser, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
Ackerman needed help and more correctly sized pallets – specifically, 463L pallets.
The pallet is the centerpiece of the Materials Handling Support System 463L, designed in the late 1950’s to provide more efficient intermodal cargo transfer for the U.S. Air Force. Today the 463L Master Pallet is a common size platform for bundling and moving air cargo, and it serves as the primary air cargo pallet for the USAF, other air forces, and many civilian cargo transport aircraft worldwide.
“We’ve been working around the clock to meet this mission,” Ackerman said. “But we are rapidly getting to the 500th unit ready to go and they will be on the aircrafts, on time.”
U.S. Air Force Capt. Thomas Fitzgerald, from the Cal Guard’s Fresno-based 144th Fighter Wing, was one of the many Soldiers and Airmen working to meet the mission. While tired from the long hours of work, Fitzgerald said he was proud of his team members and the all-hands-on-deck approach. More importantly, he was struck by the important nature of the operation.
“While we’re able to be safe and practice social distancing, we need to provide these critical resources to help those that are potentially impacted by this crisis,” said Fitzgerald.
From the warehouse to the airfield to their final destination, Ackerman said he couldn’t be prouder of the team that came together to get this job done.
“These are the moments where everybody is working for the common good of the nation,” he said. “It chokes me up a little bit … everybody here is going to get this ball over the line.”
In addition to deliveries to New York and Illinois, California is also shipping 100 ventilators to Nevada.