Kentucky ANG deploy to Caribbean for Hurricane Maria relief operations

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load equipment and vehicles onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 20, 2017. The cargo will be used by members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who deployed to the Caribbean on Sept. 20 to conduct relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load equipment and vehicles onto a C-130 Hercules at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 20, 2017. The cargo will be used by members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who deployed to the Caribbean on Sept. 20, to conduct relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing palletize inflatable motorboats to be loaded onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 20, 2017. The boats will be used by members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who deployed to the Caribbean on Sept. 20 to conduct relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing palletize inflatable motorboats to be loaded onto a C-130 Hercules at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 20, 2017. The boats will be used by members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who deployed to the Caribbean on Sept. 20, to conduct relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load equipment and vehicles onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 20, 2017. The cargo will be used by members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who deployed to the Caribbean on Sept. 20 to conduct relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load equipment and vehicles onto a C-130 Hercules at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 20, 2017. The cargo will be used by members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who deployed to the Caribbean on Sept. 20, to conduct relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AFNS) -- Seven Special Tactics Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard departed the Kentucky ANG base, Louisville, Sept. 20, 2017, for the Caribbean where they will open airfields for humanitarian aid deliveries and resident evacuations in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the third major hurricane to hit the region in the past month.

A four-man team from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron arrived in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 21, while a three-man team from the same unit is scheduled to arrive in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the same day, said Chief Master Sgt. Aaron May, the squadron’s enlisted manager for combat control.

The mission of both teams is the same: clear the airfields of debris, open runways and taxiways and establish air traffic control so military airlift can begin. The teams are prepared, if necessary, to parachute into the fields with chainsaws so they can remove fallen trees and other obstacles, allowing the C-130 Hercules that brought them to land safely and begin offloading rescue gear.

The Airmen also deployed with trucks, motorcycles and inflatable motorboats to assist with rescue operations, May said.

“(This) deployment marks the third time in the past month that Kentucky Air National Guardsmen have mobilized in support of hurricane rescue operations in the Caribbean,” said Col. David Mounkes, 123rd Airlift Wing commander, parent unit to the 123rd STS. “Our Airmen stand ready at all times to answer the call for help, and we are tremendously grateful to be able to provide this assistance again. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of these islands as they continue to weather an unprecedented hurricane season.”

The Kentucky ANG deployed more than 80 Airmen to Texas for Hurricane Harvey, establishing an aeromedical evacuation hub and saving 333 residents stranded by floodwaters in the Houston area. The unit later deployed 24 Airmen for rescue operations following Hurricane Irma, helping evacuate more than 1,000 U.S. citizens from the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Maarten.