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Denton Program: providing worldwide humanitarian support

By Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Aug. 30, 2016

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Jeremiah Denton Amendment, named in honor of former Navy pilot, Vietnam prisoner-of-war and Alabama senator, passed in 1987.

The Denton amendment grants the Secretary of Defense the approval to delegate shipments of humanitarian supplies provided by nongovernmental organizations and nonprofit organizations to nations, without any added cost to the nation receiving supplies or the Department of Defense.

The Denton program has impacted people and countries on a global scale, helping wherever and whenever possible.

"We work with nonprofit organizations throughout the United States to provide assistance where we can," said Jim Bailey, Denton logistics manager. "To deliver supplies to various destinations, we will use whatever extra space is available on aircraft."

Cargo consists of medical equipment and supplies, non-perishable foods, educational materials, hygienic supplies and vehicles such as emergency vehicles, tractors and busses.

"We will take this cargo anywhere we can," said Ken Hundemer, Denton operations manager. "We cover the Caribbean, Central America, some of Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Eastern Europe. There are occasions where we will go elsewhere but, for the most part, these are the places we regularly service."

While this program helps countries and people in need of these supplies, the Denton program assists military personnel as well.

"Because there are a lot of aircrew members who need to get qualified or have their qualifications kept up-to-date, both here and outside of [the base], they volunteer to be crewmembers on Denton program missions," said Hundemer. "We also help with training the 437th Aerial Port Squadron and the Operations Group."

In addition to working with the Air Force, the Denton Program also coordinates with the Army, Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

"We mainly work with the Air Force," said Bailey, "But when we get further downrange, we go to the other branches for assistance with getting our cargo to its intended destination."

Recently, the Denton program worked with the 357th Airlift Squadron from Maxwell Air Force Base transporting an ambulance to Oaxaca, Mexico. "The donor who provided the ambulance is from Ohio and used to work for the Army Reserves in their civil services unit," said Hundemer. "Currently, when a base gets new vehicles or equipment, the replaced equipment will be sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office where it can be purchased or repurposed. This particular ambulance will now serve five local communities providing transportation to any hospital within a one hour radius."

It is one thing to be the coordinator ensuring packages are loaded onto the proper aircraft to reach the correct destination. However, it is another thing to actually deliver the cargo in person. Hundemer, who has been the Denton program director of operations since 1999, has also been a part of the 315th Airlift Wing as a reservist pilot since 1997. Hundemer loads the cargo on the plane and, in some cases, he has flown the cargo himself to the final destination.

"I don't think there was a more fulfilling feeling then when I was able to see the gratitude on some of the people's faces," said Hundemer. "One of the most memorable times I can remember was when I flew into the Dominican Republic delivering food and other supplies to a group of nuns. A storm had come in, they didn't speak English but, even with all the obstacles, we all worked together to get their cargo indoors. It was truly amazing to see them working with us."

During fiscal year 2016, the Denton program completed 85 missions to 10 different countries delivering 609 pallets of cargo and 22 vehicles.

"Though we don't generally respond to natural disasters, we provide countries with things they may be lacking because of unfortunate events or situations," said Bailey. "We are able to foster better relations between ourselves and other countries and I think that's one of the most important things to come out of this program."