Devil Raiders deploy to Honduras in aftermath of Hurricane Iota

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

A team of 14 Devil Raiders from the 621st Contingency Response Wing recently deployed to Honduras to assist humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Iota, which hit the region Nov. 16.

The Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Group formed an assessment team and deployed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, accompanied by two language-enabled air advisors from the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, in support of U.S. Southern Command, Joint Task Force-Bravo and the U.S. Agency for International Development efforts.

The team facilitated the opening of landing zones and airports in the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota.

The assessment team, also known as “Alpha Mike,” routinely trains and prepares for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations and was able to rapidly respond with its unique capabilities to assess airfield suitability to receive fixed wing aircraft.

In less than 84 hours from arrival, the team surveyed, cleared and opened a contingency landing zone, said Col. Gregory Cyrus, 621st CRG commander.

The team assessed an international airport in San Pedro Sula after catastrophic flooding inundated the airport with several feet of floodwaters and mud, Cyrus said. The team also worked with Honduran officials and local representatives to clear hundreds of yards of dense vegetation from around another landing zone.

“Whether civilian or military-affiliated, the people of Honduras are friendly, welcoming, and most of all, resilient,” Cyrus said.

The AM team integrated with JTF-B to support disaster relief operations and supported the completion of multiple mission tasking assignments for USAID.  

“The U.S. Air Force and Air Mobility Command have unmatched capabilities to rapidly respond to world events, from combat operations to humanitarian crisis,” Cyrus said. “Our small footprint allows us to move fast, and our flexibility allows us to tailor our equipment to meet almost any requirement and mode of transportation.”

In a change of pace, air advisors from the 571st MSAS at Travis AFB were included in the team of 14 as language and culture experts.

“In a first of its kind, the CRG partnered with the [621st] Air Mobility Advisory Group to employ multiple mission sets that addressed various requirements in the affected areas,” Cyrus said. “Due to language barriers, Air Mobility Command recognized the need for language-enabled air advisors to augment the team.”

Though not typically part of the AM team, the air advisors' expertise was vital to completing this mission.

“Outstanding Airmen, air advisors, and now honorary AM team members -- I’d take them with me anywhere regardless of area of responsibility,” Cyrus said. “They provided invaluable guidance, language skills, and direction in support of the AM mission.”

The AM team is an example of AMC developing teams of multi-capable Airmen to accomplish tasks outside their core Air Force Specialty Code.

“The small team dynamic is one of a kind,” said Tech. Sgt. Lance Oakes, 321st Contingency Response Squadron equipment and training manager. “The team is the epitome of a multi-capable Airman.  Each person is considered a subject matter expert for their respective Air Force Specialty Code and is highly knowledgeable with other AFSCs on the team.”

Devil Raiders remain agile and flexible to ensure they are ready to respond and assist partner nations in their time of need.

“It’s incredible watching such a small team accomplish so much,” Cyrus said. “The AM sets the bar high for multi-capable Airmen! I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team.”

The team returned to their respective bases Dec. 4 after the nearly two-week mission.