Some of the relief supplies American organizations gather to send overseas begin their international journey in Charleston.
Major Wayne Capps with the 315th Airlift Wing said the supplies are transported as part of the Denton Humanitarian Assistance Program when space is available on military cargo planes.
Capps said the program gets the supplies where they are most needed and provides valuable training for air crews.
“It fits really well with the reserve missions, with reserve air crew members because they’re short missions and they can — it’s a lot of different kind of materials and we use those for training opportunities,” Capps said. “We use our regular training time to fly these missions.”
Capps said most of the missions are to locations in the Caribbean or South America, which makes the runs convenient for Charleston-based crews.
“Delivering this humanitarian aid, it’s fairly close,” he said. “It’s a quick trip, so it mirrors well with our location and our mission of flying the C-17 Globemaster III.”
The logistical expense and issues can save American charities money and time that could be directed more toward supplies or other means of assistance.
“That’s the majority of the expenses, is how do you get a fire truck or a school bus?” Capps said. “We delivered a well-drilling truck . . . It’s now the only well-drilling truck in the country of Haiti.”
Capps said delivery will help about 84,000 people in rural Haiti The truck was part of a shipment of nearly 100,000 pounds of humanitarian aid delivered to Haiti that day.
Since October 2017, the 315th Airlift Wing has delivered 72.1 tons of humanitarian aid to Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve been to some really unique places. I think the most memorable was where we went to Guatemala. We were delivering supplies to an orphanage in Guatemala… The lady who owned the orphanage, who turned out to be an American doctor who went down there on vacation and decided to sell her practice and run an orphanage. So she took everything she owned and put it into that orphanage. We delivered a lot of aid that would really help her get up and running and accept more children as well. Pulled up, and I went up to shake her hand and she just grabbed me and hugged me and tears were rolling down her eyes and you could just see how excited the kids were.”
Some of the donations came from as close as the people of Charleston.
“We donated 10,000 pounds of shoes to orphans in Afghanistan,” he said. “The people of Charleston actually got together and donated all of these shoes and we sent them to Afganistan. It was such a great mission.”
Capps said the training is valuable preparation for when disasters strike, such as Hurricane Maria pummeling Puerto Rico last year.
“They land at very austere landing strips and runways, just like they would have to do all over the world,” he said. Crews learn to deal with third-world country host capabilities and cargo of unique shape and size.”
“Imagine pulling into Haiti and there’s a forklift a guy is literally pouring water on the engine to keep it from overheating,” he said. “We get valuable training and can help someone in the same mission.”