NEWS | Sept. 14, 2017

FEMA, Air Force utilize vital airfield for hurricane staging area

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston enabled Hurricane Irma recovery operations by helping to stand-up a U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) installation support base at the North Auxiliary Airfield here during the month of September.  A team of Airmen began partnering with FEMA to start relief operations Sept. 12, 2017.

The ISB is the primary staging area for FEMA to receive and distribute relief goods and commodities destined for needy areas of the south. From airfield to staging area, JB Charleston Airmen ensured the NAAF was in the best condition to support hurricane relief.  

“We serve as the liaison and support entity for the Emergency Preparedness Liaison Office,” said Col. Rockie Wilson, 628th Mission Support Group commander. “We’ve worked closely with both AFNORTH and the 18th Air Force to coordinate the support from Pope Army Airfield as well as provided access to the NAAF.”

Wilson also explained why the NAAF was chosen as the location to operate these relief efforts from.

“Its central locality in terms of distribution, logistics and management allows the vehicles from NAAF to expediently take the assets from there and push them south to the hurricane victims,” said Wilson. “It’s ideally suited both for reception, staging and then onward movement of all those assets.”

Members of the 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group, Pope Army Airfield, N.C., and the 628th Mission Support Group, are supporting FEMA at the staging area, working side-by-side to ensure aid gets where it needs to go. The team expects containers loaded with relief goods to arrive and depart the ISB in support of regional recovery operations.

“We’re expecting anywhere from 600 to 700 trailers to arrive with different kinds of commodities being requested down in Florida,” said First Lt. Savannah Emmrich, 43rd Air Base Squadron fuels management officer in charge. “You have food and water, those are the main two, but then you also have cleaning supplies and anything else that’s needed and requested.”

The working dynamic between the U.S. Air Force and FEMA has cultivated an effective operating environment for some Airmen.

“We’re working really well with them,” said Emmrich. “It’s been an honor for us to get this opportunity to help FEMA, see their operations and be able to support this effort.”

Jodi Johnson, FEMA facilities manager and ISB ground support, said working alongside the military during this operation has been a positive experience. After serving 27 years in the U.S. Army, she appreciates all the help the U.S. Air Force is providing.

“I took the Airmen into the training room yesterday, trained them for about 45 minutes and they hit the ground running,” said Johnson. “They’re very receptive to do anything we ask them to do. We all come together as one family, one unit. We’re all able to come together as one unit to work together effectively.” 

The partnership will continue during the weeks ahead and although a completion date isn’t set, some have expressed their excitement to continue operations as long as is needed.

Staff Sgt. Micah Hallman, 43rd Air Mobility Squadron air transportation specialist, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., is enjoying the opportunity to help those in need and appreciates the experience of working alongside FEMA.

"Any chance we get to come down and help people in need is a good day,” said Hallman. “We have good folks here at FEMA. They've been real forward with any information we need. Anything they have, they've made it clear we can use it. Just a real professional group of people and I’m glad to be a part of this."