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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | March 9, 2010

Utah Air Guard mission in Chile changes from training to humanitarian

By Krista DeAngelis Utah National Guard

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Four members of the Utah Air National Guard's 151st Air Refueling Wing based here had a rude awakening Feb. 27 when the 15th floor of their hotel in Santiago, Chile, started to shake.

Deployed to Chile to provide flying and maintenance support to the Chilean Air Force on their new KC-135 "E" model aircraft, the group had no idea that a 8.8-magnitude earthquake would quickly cause them to become the some of the first U.S. Armed Forces personnel to support humanitarian efforts in the country.

The Utah crew, along with Airmen from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, arrived in Santiago on Feb. 16 to help deliver the country's first-ever KC-135E and provide training to the Chilean Airmen.

That routine training plan quickly transformed into a real-world contingency operation on Feb. 28, when the group was asked to help transport mobile medical units and supplies back and forth from northern Chile to other locations throughout the country.

Over the past week, the aircrew has not only flown medical supplies to Santiago and Concepciòn, but has transported field kitchens that can feed up to 250 people, cooks, firefighters, tents and blankets donated by the Chinese government to airfields where needed.

While flying these missions, the Utah crew has been trying to fit in some real-world training for the Chilean Airmen, who are riding along with them.

"This has been fantastic training for everyone, you can't plan this kind of situation" said Lt. Col. Boyd Badali, a 151st ARW pilot. "These students are getting PhD-level training ... with contingency planning, the cargo loading and all the maintenance issues we've had, it's been a great experience."

The Utah crew has been training two Chilean pilots, one boom operator and more than 30 maintainers. The KC-135E is the first of three tanker aircraft that Chile has purchased from the United States.