Kentucky Air National Guard flying to aid Hurricane Irma victims

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WBKO) — Seven Special Tactics Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard will open airfields so humanitarian aid can be delivered and residents can be evacuated 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 is slated to deploy to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; while a three-man team from the same unit is scheduled to deploy to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands," 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 aircraft that brought them to land safely and begin offloading rescue gear.

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

“Today’s 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, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, parent unit to the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. “Our Airmen stand ready at all times to answer the call for help, and we are tremendously grateful to 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 Air Guard deployed more than 80 to Texas Airmen for Hurricane Harvey, establishing an aeromedical evacuation hub and saving 333 citizens stranded by floodwaters in the Houston area. The unit later deployed 24 Airmen for rescue operations following Hurricane Irma, helping evacuate over 1,000 U.S. citizens from the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Maarten.

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